Why Business is Booming in the Bluegrass State

By Gary Shapiro

Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Kentucky couldn’t have come at a better time. In Wednesday’s speech in Versailles, KY, he touted the many victories of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, saying “Kentucky is growing like never before.”

Although only a few months old, this historic legislation is already making an impact across the country — especially in Kentucky. Leaders spanning a variety of industries and sectors have started investing in the state in new and exciting ways. Brown-Forman, a spirits and wine company based in Louisville, not only established a charitable foundation and made more than a $60 million donation to it, but also announced plans to fully fund its pension liability of $120 million. Community Trust Bancorp, a regional bank headquartered in Pikeville, granted sizeable bonuses to both full- and part-time workers. And Humana, a nationally-recognized insurance provider based in Louisville, increased its minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour. All of these companies credited their ability to make these investments to the tax bill.

It’s not just Kentucky-based companies that have been able to benefit from the bill; Kentucky citizens will also receive a boost. They’ll see an increase in take-home pay, and they’ll be able to spend less of their money on utilities. According to the Kentucky Public Service Commission, consumers can expect to pay four percent less on gas, electricity and water this upcoming year.

Even large, multinational companies will be able to increase investment in Kentucky, thanks to the tax bill. In his State of the Union address, the president praised Apple for its decision to invest $350 billion in America and repatriate funds from overseas. It’s a decision that will positively impact Kentucky. The company highlighted its plan to invest in manufacturing in the state — an investment that follows on the heels of a previous $200-million investment into the Harrodsburg factory that makes the glass used in hundreds of millions of iPhones. These gains have also encouraged Amazon to focus part of its business operations in the state, adding 200 acres to its Kentucky air hub and 2,700 future hires.

It’s an exciting moment for the state, one full of promise and momentum. From where I sit, as head of the Consumer Technology Association, it looks like it could be a turning point. Last year, the state passed a right-to-work law, continued to have a low corporate tax rate of only six percent and had strong entrepreneurial activity, creating 53 jobs per 1,000 people in the last five years.

Thanks to these state policies, as well as national reforms and local business investments, Kentucky is well positioned to turn a corner on tech in the coming year. With the benefits of tax reform combined with a renewed focus on innovation, the Bluegrass State will continue to thrive.