Exports Record, FDI Showcase Kentucky’s International Growth

Economic development officials visit company execs in Europe to further efforts

Media Contacts: Nicole Burton

Jack Mazurak

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 23, 2018) – Kentucky’s international growth continues to set records. In addition to last year’s all-time investment mark of $9.2 billion, Kentucky has increased the presence of international companies and broken its export record for the second consecutive year, this time topping the $30 billion mark in the process. In 2017, Kentucky sold more than $30.88 billion worth of products and services internationally, a 5.8 percent increase over the previous record from a year ago.

In addition, 20 percent of announced projects in the state last year had foreign ownership, contributing to 27 percent of all corporate investment and 23 percent of new jobs. The most recent data on foreign direct investment (FDI) provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics attribute 6 percent of Kentucky’s workforce to FDI, the fifth most of any state.

“Kentucky is a significant player on the world’s economic stage and never has that been more evident than it is today,” Gov. Bevin said. “The commonwealth is home to nearly 500 international facilities, and thanks to a record year for exports in 2017, Kentucky products are making their way into more and more homes across the globe. The commitment to develop and nurture relationships with companies outside the US is a focal point for our administration. The world’s corporate decision makers are increasingly aware that Kentucky is an ideal place to locate new business and expand existing business. Countries around the globe are quickly discovering that the products made in the Bluegrass State are second to none.”

According to data recently made available by the U.S. Census Foreign Trade Bureau and WISERTrade, aerospace products and parts once again lead Kentucky’s exports by category. The industry shipped more than $11.7 billion in products out of the US in 2017. That represents a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year and a more than 34 percent jump from 2015. 

Motor vehicles (nearly $4 billion, a 19.3 percent increase over 2016) and pharmaceuticals and medicines (nearly $1.9 billion, a 12.8 percent increase over the past two years) also continue to make significant strides and remain among Kentucky’s top exports. Resin, synthetic rubber and artificial and synthetic fibers and filament (more than $954 million) and basic chemicals (more than $653 million) round out the top five industries shipping products and services from the commonwealth last year.

The top export destinations remain consistent with recent years, with Canada topping the list at almost $7.7 billion shipped north of the border. That figure is 2.8 percent beyond the 2016 mark and reflects nearly 6 percent growth over the past two years. The United Kingdom (more than $3.2 billion), France (more than $2.9 billion), China (more than $2.8 billion) and Brazil (more than $2.4 billion) make up the top five destinations for Kentucky-made products. China’s 59.8 percent increase in products imported from the commonwealth represents the largest increase for any country importing $100 million or more worth of products from the state.

“Kentucky continues to grow its presence in the global market, and this export record is the latest evidence of that,” said Terry Gill, secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development. “Developing and strengthening international relationships has been one of our cabinet’s primary goals over the past year, and we are beginning to see that effort pay great dividends. This is only the beginning of what we want to accomplish by spreading the message that Kentucky is the premier location for international investment.”

With last year’s growth, Kentucky is now home to almost 500 foreign-owned facilities that employ nearly 110,000 people. Sec. Gill, Executive Officer Vivek Sarin and other cabinet representatives visited Europe last week meeting with executives of companies already located in Kentucky, as well as those considering new operations in the US.

“This type of success is exactly why we do what we do in terms of international engagement,” said Executive Officer Sarin. “Last week’s visit with company executives in Europe, as well as our previous trips to Europe and Japan, build upon our existing relationships with the opportunity to create new ones. We saw firsthand the impact these meetings can have on a company’s decision-making process, and it is great to see supporting evidence to that point. We will continue to work closely with companies and governments in other nations so that Kentucky is the first place that comes to mind when they consider new business or the import of new products.”

In 2017, various Kentucky delegations, including Gov. Bevin, participated in international visits to Japan in March and December to visit with company and government officials. Also in March, a delegation visited Europe as part of an apprenticeship study in Germany and Switzerland. 

These types of meetings, both abroad and hosted in Kentucky, have led to further discussions with companies about investing and creating jobs in the state, some of which have already come to fruition.

Following a visit from Gov. Bevin and other Kentucky officials at Hannover Messe in April 2016, Aventics Corp., which manufactures pneumatic components and systems, announced an expansion in Lexington in September 2017. That project will create 20 full-time jobs. 

In December, Takigawa Corp., a producer of flexible packaging and high-performance films, announced it would locate its first US operation in Nelson County with a nearly $46 million investment that will create 180 jobs. The company attributed its June meeting with Gill and Sarin at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington D.C. as the spark that ignited discussions about the possibility of a Kentucky location.

Kentucky businesses can learn more about export opportunities and make connections with export markets through the Kentucky Export Initiative. KEI brings together a coalition of business organizations, trade experts and government entities, including the Cabinet for Economic Development, with a focus on increasing Kentucky exports to create new jobs and diversified markets for the state’s products. Learn more about KEI at www.KYExports.com.

Gov. Bevin’s video about the record-breaking exports is available here.

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at ThinkKentucky.com. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.



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