Governor launches supply chain initiative for Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear launched a supply chain initiative Monday aimed at creating a more interconnected Kentucky economy by matching the state’s manufacturers and suppliers.

The goal of “Supply Kentucky” is to bolster job growth, reduce manufacturing costs and create more secure supply chains, the Democratic governor said.

Manufacturing is a crucial segment of the Bluegrass State’s economy, accounting for 12.5% of its workforce, compared to 8.1% nationally.

“We believe that this is the future,” Beshear said as he released the new business tool.

“It’s from company after company saying, ‘we need our supply chain base as close as possible.’ And our response being, ‘OK, let’s bring some of them to Kentucky, but are you willing to look at other Kentucky companies that are here right now?’ And the answer has been, ‘absolutely.’”

Frank Jemley, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, said the initiative will provide companies with “access to one of the best tools in the marketplace” to help grow revenues, secure necessary supplies and enhance job security for their workers.A new online platform provides a free searchable database of manufacturers and suppliers in the state, the governor said. Kentucky companies can register and search for other companies to do business with.

Kentucky is home to more than 5,000 manufacturing facilities employing about 250,000 people, the governor’s office said.

“This is a tool where they’re going to be able to get online and say, ‘I need need x or I need y. We’ve been having challenges with it,’” Beshear said at a news conference. “Here are all the Kentucky suppliers. And in a short drive, be able to be in their facility. To talk about what they need. To talk about their specifications.”

Supply Kentucky also will coordinate marketing efforts, provide workforce-related resources, foster growth of minority- and female-owned businesses and connect Kentucky companies to suppliers throughout the country when their supply needs can’t be met from within the state, Beshear’s office said in a news release.

In a statement, state Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard referred to the governor’s initiative as “window dressing” that “sounds like the bare minimum of what his administration should have already been doing.” Southard said the program comes “two years too late” — referring to the pandemic-related supply chain crisis that plagued the nation’s economy.

A dozen Republicans are competing in the May primary for a shot at trying to unseat Beshear. He and his lieutenant governor are the only Democrats holding statewide office in Kentucky, and his economic stewardship is a key part of his pitch for a second term.

The governor announced Monday that Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate sank to 3.9% for 2022, the state’s lowest rate since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting state jobless rates in 1976. Kentucky also has set record highs for job creation and private-sector investment during Beshear’s tenure.

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