Beshear launches group to boost auto industry in Kentucky

jbrammer@herald-leader.comApril 7, 2014 

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear launched the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association on Monday, saying he wanted Kentucky to be as closely identified with the auto industry as Detroit.

Made up of Kentucky auto manufacturers, suppliers and supporting businesses, the group aims to "create a unified voice for an industry sector that is profoundly important to our state's economic health and growth," Beshear said at a Capitol news conference.

A 12-member board of directors will develop the association, which will help to create collaborative partnerships to advance the industry. Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes will be its inaugural chairman.

Beshear said the association would focus on branding, advocacy and leadership. Twelve other states have such organizations.

He said the new association was not a government agency, but the state would help it "get up and running until it is self-supporting."

Hayes said he didn't know how much state money would be spent to start the partnership, but it would require a minimal amount for costs such as mailings.

The board members are Mike Goss, a general manager with Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc.; Gabby Bruno, a regional director for Ford Motor Co.; Eric Henning, a regional director for General Motors Co.; Joe Adamcik, a director for AGC Automotive Americas; Jim Rachlin, president of Metalsa Light Vehicles USA and Australia; Rich Whitaker, vice president of Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc.; Mike Hirsch, a vice president of operations for ZF Steering Systems LLC: Doug Cain, CEO of Mubea North America; Brandon Kessinger, vice president and general counsel for Akebono Brake Corp.; Toru "Richard" Kamioke, president and CEO of Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc.; and Kurt Krug, vice president of North American human resources for INOAC.

With more than 1.2 million vehicles produced in 2013, Kentucky ranks third in the nation in light vehicle production and first per capita. The 460 auto-related manufacturing businesses in the state employ nearly 82,000 people. Kentucky's vehicle exports reached a record $5.5 billion last year.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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