The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that launched last night will be one of the most important sporting events in our state's history. Several hundred thousand guests, from more than 60 countries and all 50 states, will witness Kentucky as the Horse Capital of the World as well as experience the beauty and hospitality that has always been a source of state pride.
NBC is presenting prime-time exposure of the Games. Satellite television will add coverage to all the countries participating that will reach a potential audience of over 500 million people.
More than 1,000 press credentials have been given out for international and United States coverage and an estimated $167 million will be added to our economy from this event alone.
Comparing the importance of this event, we only have to look back a few months ago when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup. Two years before, China hosted a magnificent production of the Summer Olympics. Both countries' motive was to show the world their countries are open for business and tourism. The world now has an entirely new appreciation of both countries.
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One event can change a person's life, his or her career, a business or state's future. The attraction of new investment and business was a priority of my administration, and we were fortunate to attract UPS to locate its world distribution center in Louisville.
Louisville's leadership gave strong support in assisting its expansion, and UPS now is Kentucky's largest taxpayer and second largest employer. The UPS success is a great selling example, proving Kentucky is a great place to do business and our nation's best location to service the marketplace.
Bottom line — Kentucky is the best state in the country to locate a growing business, since we're within 500 miles of 60 percent of the U.S. population.
I've had the opportunity to sell Kentucky throughout my career; I've seen the importance of branding, from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colonel Sanders, to the Kentucky Colonels, then as governor of Kentucky. Often, out of crisis comes opportunity; and with the economy struggling throughout the world, businesses are looking to how better compete and expand. I am hoping out of the spotlight of this event we can be recognized and develop the image of a great place to visit and do business — hoping to create development and jobs for communities across this state.
Not only are Alltech and WEG putting on a 16-day world class horse event for the world to see but, for our visitors, the festivities offer top entertainers every night along with the endless Horse Park displays presenting the history and heritage of our state. The visionaries for this event four years ago were Jim Host and Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who brought the Games to the United States for the first time in the history of the event.
Shortly thereafter, Pearse Lyons, founder and owner of Alltech, agreed to put up $10 million as the sponsor of the Games. For the past two years, Lyons has traveled throughout the state creating excitement and unifying our government and business leaders' support, plus expanding Alltech's sponsorship to $35 million to ensure the Alltech World Equestrian Games will be a spectacular success.
Poet Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games has given our state a chance to reach beyond its grasp — and for the world to discover Kentucky.