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Beshear praises Nelson’s progress

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Officials describe community as model for development

By Randy Patrick

Gov. Steve Beshear praised the Bardstown-Nelson County community as a model for economic progress when he came here Wednesday to celebrate Kentucky and the county being honored by Site Selection magazine.

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Beshear brought the big silver trophy with him to My Old Kentucky Home State Park and compared it to the NCAA title trophy that University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari toured the state with in 2012.

Beshear was taking a page out of Calipari’s playbook because, he said, in the competitive world of economic development, Kentucky had just won a national championship.

“We want to bring this cup to Nelson County to celebrate with you because you helped us win it … by being in the trenches with us, by helping us create jobs, by helping us bring new businesses into this community and this state,” he said.

Kentucky received the Atlanta publication’s 2014 Governor’s Cup for leading the nation in large-scale economic development per capita. The competition measures states based on the number of projects that involved capital investment of $1 million or more, created at least 20 jobs or added at least 20,000 feet of floor space, and it’s adjusted based on population. It’s “not a popularity contest” but rather “a measure of actual, tangible development,” Beshear explained.

“You helped make this community and surrounding area a vibrant place that people want to work in, and that’s the key to economic development,” the governor said.

In addition to Kentucky getting the Governor’s Cup, Bardstown-Nelson County was chosen by the magazine as one of the top 100 micropolitans in the nation, and the Nelson County Economic Development Agency was selected as one of the top 20 development groups.

“We received more economic development per capita in Kentucky than any state in the United States” in 2014, Beshear said to a loud round of applause. “Last year Kentucky announced more than 350 new industry location and expansion projects” worth more than $3.7 billion in new business investment, and which will create an estimated 15,000 new jobs. It is the most investment in a single year since the state started keeping records, he said.

Exports last year set a record of $27.5 billion, but the previous three years were all records too, and so far this year, Beshear said, exports are up 10 percent over last year.

He also mentioned that the Federal Reserve reported that Kentucky had recovered more than all of its losses from the recent recession, and the unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is half of what it was then.

As for Nelson County, last year alone, Beshear said, it had 12 new and expansion projects worth almost $115 million in new investment, which it’s estimated will create 167 new jobs, and since January 2008, the county has announced 38 new and expansion jobs worth almost $179 million.

“This progress isn’t accidental,” he said. “It happens by strategically planning your efforts and then working that way. It happens by bringing people together.”

“I’m not here to declare victory and cut down the net because the work’s not over yet,” the governor said. But by any measure, he added, “we’ve been successful, and our job is to continue to build on that success.”

Kim Huston, who led the celebration, was commended by government and industry officials for her leadership in the county’s progress, along with boards of organizations she leads, Nelson County Economic Development Agency and the Bardstown Industrial Development Corporation.

Economic development requires teamwork, said state Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, and the team needs a good quarterback.

“We have an exceptional quarterback in Kim Huston,” he said.

David Mandell, president and chief executive officer of the Bluegrass Bourbon Company, one of the county’s newest recruits, commended the governor for “a tremendous accomplishment” and said Kentucky has done “an exceptional job of attracting and keeping businesses.”

He also praised local leaders for their work.

He said recruiting is about more than public policies, it’s about people.

“You worked with us, and you built a wonderful relationship,” Mandell said. “It’s one that has been based on trust, respect and love for this community. That’s how you attract business, and that’s why we’re investing $25 million right here in Bardstown, Kentucky.”

Others who spoke were County Judge-Executive Dean Watts; state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon; and Bardstown Mayor John Royalty.