The South has significantly expanded its foothold in the automotive industry over the past two decades, but how can it grow further?
That's among the topics to be discussed at a multi-state conference to be held in Lexington on June 7 and 8.
The conference, "Driving the Next 20 Years: Creating the New Automotive Industry in the South," is being organized by the Southern Growth Policies Board, a public policy think tank that is supported by 13 Southern states and chaired by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
The group's annual conference covers a different topic each year, but "unlike other topics that we've dealt with, this is probably one of the most dramatic economic development changes in the South's economic terrain," said Scott Doron of the organization. "In a matter of decades, we went from having some automotive to having 16-plus plants and being one of the major areas of production in the world.
"That has been a real boon to our economy, especially as some of our other manufacturing facilities have either gone offshore or been shut down."
Among the topics to be discussed at the conference are how to increase the number of plants and auto suppliers, and envisioning the future of the industry as a whole in the South.
The keynote speakers include Jim Wiseman, vice president of corporate communications for Toyota Motor North America, and Jason Stein, editor of Automotive News.
Wiseman plans to discuss the growth of the automotive industry in the South and why it has been a good location for the automaker, which has eight locations spread around the 13 member states. Stein will address the future of the industry in the South.
There also will be a governors' panel, to be moderated by Beshear.
"I encourage not only those directly involved in the automotive industry to register and attend," Beshear said in a statement, "but also those connected with our university and community college systems, labor and business organizations and anyone who has an interest in the future of the auto industry and Kentucky."