Affordable, accessible health care coverage for every Kentuckian. A record-breaking year for auto manufacturing. More than 12,000 new and protected jobs in the Commonwealth. National recognition for education achievement. These are just a few of the accomplishments Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted in his “Top 10 Accomplishments of 2013” released today.
“Every day, we have an opportunity to strengthen Kentucky’s people, support Kentucky’s businesses, and create a better community for our families. I’m extremely proud of the work we have done this year – from providing access to affordable health coverage to 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians, to attracting thousands of new jobs and fostering meaningful conversation about the future of eastern Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “Every day, we remain focused on the goals we brought into the administration – to create new jobs and keep them here, to manage taxpayers’ money wisely, and to champion initiatives to improve public health, education and workforce development. It’s the work we will carry on in 2014 and beyond.”
1. AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE FOR EVERY KENTUCKIAN
“The ability for every Kentuckian to get affordable, accessible, and reliable health insurance is not just the biggest accomplishment of the year,” said Gov. Beshear. “It will be the most significant single improvement for Kentuckians’ lives for a generation.”
Gov. Beshear has guided Kentucky into the national spotlight as the state with a sterling track record for implementing the new federal Affordable Care Act and providing access to health care for the 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians.
Since its launch Oct. 1, Kentucky’s health benefits website, kynect, has been hailed as a national model for its reliability and ease of use. Approximately 85,000 Kentuckians have used the website or the kynect call center to enroll in affordable health insurance – and for many of them, it’s the first time they have had health coverage. Thousands more are expected to apply before the end of the open enrollment period on March 31.
“These people – the uninsured – are not strangers to us. They’re our friends and neighbors, even our own family members,” said Gov. Beshear. “And most of them work but can’t afford health coverage. So they roll the dice every day, hoping they won’t get sick or hurt, knowing that bankruptcy could be just one bad diagnosis away.”
In May, Gov. Beshear announced Kentucky would expand eligibility for Medicaid – allowing some 308,000 of Kentucky’s uninsured – mostly the working poor – to enroll in the program.
The other 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians can access affordable coverage through kynect, the state’s online insurance marketplace.
Kentucky’s successful rollout and implementation of the new health care law has garnered praise and press coverage from major media outlets both in the U.S. and abroad.
2. BILLIONS IN NEW BUSINESS INVESTMENT, THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS
Kentucky’s flexible economic development incentives and friendly business climate continue to attract more new and expanding companies to our state. 2013 was an outstanding year for job growth with the announcement of 217 projects representing more than 12,000 projected new jobs. Those critical job creation projects represent a more than $3.1 billion investment across the Commonwealth.
Exports of Kentucky-made products and services are on pace to top last year’s record of $22.1 billion. Through the first 10 months of 2013, export totals for the Commonwealth reached a record $20.8 billion, a 13 percent increase. Kentucky’s percentage increase is second highest among the states.
To streamline and bolster business development in the Commonwealth, the Cabinet for Economic Development created the Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet’s Department for Business Development. The office enhances existing efforts to help startup businesses every step of the way.
Multiple national organizations have recognized Kentucky’s prowess supporting and growing businesses, including:
Site Selection magazine ranked Kentucky’s business climate ninth in the nation in 2013 – up two spots from 2012.
Kentucky ranked 10th in this year’s Site Selection magazine’s Governor’s Cup Award for having the highest number of qualifying industry locations and expansions. Kentucky has the smallest population of any state in the top 10.
Pollina Corporate Real Estate Inc. – a national leader in corporate site selection – named Kentucky one of America’s Most Improved States for Business in 2013. The report indicates Kentucky’s status reflects state political leadership that has come to grips with new international competition for jobs and business investment.
Business Facilities ranks Kentucky’s Automotive Strength third best in the country.
Major jobs announcements in 2013 include:
U.S. Bank Home Mortgage in Owensboro - $15.2 million investment, 332 jobs
Custom Foods in Owingsville - $44 million investment, 200 jobs
Bilstein in Bowling Green - $120 million investment, 90 jobs
PTC Seamless Tube Corp. in Hopkinsville - $102 million investment, 283 jobs
Kayser in Fulton - $17.5 million investment, 121 jobs
Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products in Bowling Green - $66 million investment, 100 jobs
Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems Inc. in Russell Springs - $30 million investment, 155 jobs
American Stave Company in Morehead - $10 million investment, 70 jobs
Groupon in Hebron - $12 million investment, 115 jobs
L’Oreal USA in Florence - $40 million investment, 200 jobs
Alpla in Bowling Green - $22 million investment, 72 jobs
Mubea in Florence - $60 million investment, 150 jobs
eBay in Louisville - $45 million investment, 150 jobs
Vangent in Winchester and London – $30.5 million investment, 1,300 jobs
Whitehall Industries in Paducah - $13 million investment, 150 jobs
Bingham McCutchen in Lexington - $22.6 million investment, 250 jobs
Precision Resource Inc. in Mt. Sterling - $4.8 million investment, 15 jobs
Lubrizol in Louisville - $108 million investment, 24 jobs
Gibbs Die Casting Corp. in Henderson - $26.8 million investment, 160 jobs
3. AUTO MANUFACTURING SMASHES RECORDS, LEXUS LANDS IN KENTUCKY
Kentucky motor vehicle exports witnessed a banner year – up 43.2 percent through the first three quarters. Kentucky exported more than $3 billion in motor vehicles, and is expected to exceed $4 billion, ensuring that 2013 will be a record for the industry.
This year, Kentucky is the third-highest auto-producing state in the country – surpassed only by Michigan and Ohio.
Toyota announced that the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) will be the first-ever U.S. production site for the Lexus ES 350 model, the top-selling Lexus sedan in the world. The Lexus project will include a $531 million investment in the Georgetown plant and will create 750 jobs. TMMK will produce about 50,000 Lexus vehicles a year starting in 2015.
The investment is the second-largest ever made by Toyota in its Georgetown plant and the largest since the $800 million addition of Plant 2 in 1991, more than 20 years ago.
Adding to that success, Ford announced plans to produce the all-new 2015 Lincoln MKC model at the Louisville Assembly Plant.
4. TOP 10 IN EDUCATION; LEADING NATION IN REFORM
Kentucky continues to earn national recognition for education reform and improvement efforts.
For the first time, Kentucky stormed the top 10 in an annual national education assessment. Kentucky’s position on key education indicators rose four places since last year, making it 10th in the nation for its efforts to improve teaching, raise student achievement and many other variables related to public education.
Each year, Education Week (a national publication that focuses on P-12 education) produces a special issue, “Quality Counts.” The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. Since 2010, Kentucky has risen 24 places in this annual report.
A recent Harvard study, Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance, echoes the Commonwealth’s progress, with Kentucky ranking eighth in student performance improvement in the last two decades. Another study, The New State Achievement
Gap: How Federal Waivers Could Make It Worse – Or Better by Education Sector Reports, says Kentucky has recorded better-than-expected gains and is leading the way as a high-performing state among those receiving waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
In 2013, Kentucky was the second state to adopt Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards define what students should know and be able to do in science at each grade level. They are more rigorous than previous standards, are comparable with international standards, are research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers.
For the first time, every Kentucky kindergartener is screened for school readiness – the results of which will provide a vast amount of valuable information to assist teachers, schools, families, child care providers and preschools in preparing Kentucky’s youngest students for success. The Brigance Kindergarten Screener is to assess students’ developmental readiness for kindergarten, based on the Kentucky Kindergarten Readiness definition approved in 2011.
For 2013, preliminary figures show Kentucky posted an 86 percent graduation rate. This year Kentucky is using a more accurate way to measure the number of students who graduate – the same way nearly every other state measures graduation rate. Compared with the most recent data available from other states (2011), even accounting for their improvement, Kentucky’s rate is among the highest.
5. GRADUATION BILL PASSES
Calling it “one of my most satisfying acts as Governor,” Gov. Beshear signed into law the Graduation Bill (Senate Bill 97), which will keep Kentucky students enrolled in school until they turn 18.
Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear joined educators and child advocates to fight for this bill’s passage for the past five legislative sessions. A late-session compromise among legislators led to the approval of SB97, which allowed school districts to opt in to the higher dropout age immediately. Once 55 percent of school districts (96 districts) adopted the policy, all remaining districts must then adopt the standard within four years.
To encourage school districts to accept the new policy immediately, the Governor and First Lady launched the Blitz to 96, an effort to get the needed 96 districts to force statewide adoption. School districts responded quickly and enthusiastically – 96 districts approved the policy within two weeks. To date, 139 districts have adopted the new graduation age standard.
6. BUILDING BRIDGES: KENTUCKY’S CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Kentucky’s bridges are critical components of our state’s economic activity. That’s why Gov. Beshear and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have worked hard to build new bridges where needed and repair existing bridges quickly.
In June, Gov. Beshear and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and other dignitaries gathered on the Kentucky bank of the Ohio River to ceremonially break ground for the Downtown Crossing – the Kentucky half of the long-awaited Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project. At an estimated $1.3 billion, the Downtown Crossing is the single largest transportation construction project in the history of the Commonwealth.
Just this month, the financing of the Downtown Crossing of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project was completed with sale of $728 million of revenue bonds and notes. The low-cost loan from the Federal Highway Administration for the project, valued at $452.2 million, closed last week.
This summer, Gov. Beshear ceremonially opened the U.S. 60 Tennessee River bridge – better known as the Ledbetter Bridge – at the McCracken-Livingston county line. The project was completed nearly 11 months ahead of schedule.
7. SHAPING OUR APPALACHIAN REGION: SOAR
On Dec. 9, Gov. Beshear joined Congressman Hal Rogers to host a landmark summit – SOAR: Shaping Our Appalachian Region. More than 1,700 people gathered in Pikeville to share ideas and strategies to move Kentucky’s eastern and southern region forward.
“Eastern Kentucky is a brilliant, storied region that enriches the fabric of our Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “Yet for several decades, the region has seen a decline in growth and development, hampered by a lack of infrastructure and other resources that communities need to grow and thrive. We know that government alone cannot solve these issues, and that is why Congressman Rogers and I launched this summit – we believe that to make real progress in eastern Kentucky, we need the input, collaboration and involvement from the people who live and work hard there every day.”
Summit attendees listened to panelists discuss the importance of investment, entrepreneurship, and education, and then offered their own ideas for a successful region in multiple breakout sessions addressing topics such as tourism, public-private partnerships, leadership development and lifelong learning. Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers agreed that the SOAR summit is only the first step in a long process of planning and action that will heavily involve the people of eastern and southern Kentucky.
8. DAWKINS LINE OPENS TO ENTHUSIASTIC TOURISTS
In June, Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, along with trail enthusiasts and local officials, opened the first 18-mile section of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail. The former railroad line is the newest adventure tourism attraction in eastern Kentucky for hikers, horseback riders and cyclists.
The first 18-mile leg of the trail, from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, features 24 trestles and 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel. Another trailhead is located at Royalton in Magoffin County.
“The natural beauty and rolling hillsides are perfect for hiking, cycling and horseback riding,” said Mrs. Beshear. “There’s a great demand for new trails and I believe the Dawkins Line will become very popular very soon.”
9. SECURED PENSIONS, LEAN GOVERNMENT
This spring, Gov. Beshear led weeks of bipartisan negotiation which resulted in the passage of bills to stabilize and modernize the state’s pension system. The legislative package created funding to pay the state’s full recommended annual pension contribution without threatening key state services like education and public safety. The increased cost to fully fund the actuarially required contribution to the Kentucky Retirement Systems is estimated at $100 million per year from the General Fund.
“The looming pension liability threatened to gut funding for education and all other priorities. It demanded our immediate and bipartisan cooperation,” said Gov. Beshear. “No matter our political philosophies, none of us were willing to put our kids at risk of a stripped-down education.”
The Governor has achieved balanced budgets both by cutting spending and by demanding greater efficiency from all state agencies. In June, the Justice Cabinet announced it would not renew a contract with a private prison in Marion County when the current contract expired. The decision meant that for the first time in nearly 30 years, Kentucky would have no inmates housed in private prisons.
During his administration, Gov. Beshear shrank state government to its smallest size in a generation, and continues to find ways to improve government efficiency with fewer taxpayer dollars.
10. PREPARING TOMORROW’S WORKFORCE TODAY
A key component of attracting economic development to Kentucky is a skilled and ready workforce. Kentucky continues to strengthen its workforce, beginning even before students graduate high school.
The college-and career-readiness rate, a measure of whether students are prepared to be successful after high school graduation, is up 20 percent from 2010. While only about a third of high school graduates were considered ready three years ago, initial data now show more than half – 54 percent – are ready to take the next step into credit-bearing college courses or a postsecondary training program.
Setting the stage for new opportunities for Kentucky’s businesses and workforce, Gov. Beshear unveiled the Kentucky Career Center, the newly overhauled workforce development system in the Commonwealth.
The new Kentucky Career Center website features a new free-to-use, online job-matching portal called Focus Talent for employers and Focus Career for job seekers. It uses the latest technology to match skilled workers with employers in need of those skills. Focus Talent allows employers to post job advertisements and search for resumes and offers employers quick and easy access to a large repository of relevant talent. Focus Career provides job seekers both a professional resume builder and a path to job registration.
The Kentucky Work Ready Communities program momentum is growing as more communities learn about the certification and how it can help them achieve a higher level of competiveness among business and industry. In addition to the 30 counties that have achieved certification as a Work Ready Community or Work Ready Community in Progress, another 48 are working on applications.