Kentucky hires firm to create economic development plan

The state has hired a consulting firm to help it craft a strategic plan for economic development with the goal of adding jobs.

The 13-member Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board, which directs the state's economic development efforts, has hired Boyette Strategic Advisors for the plan, to be called "Kentucky's Unbridled Future."

It is expected to be finished by October and will identify emerging business sectors in the state and highlight ways Kentucky can position itself for success.

"State economic development agencies in today's global economy must have a clear understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and advantages on a global level," Luther Deaton, vice chair of the Partnership Board and CEO of Central Bank & Trust, said in a statement. "They must adopt an adaptable, strategic and modern approach to economic development.

"The Partnership Board very much looks forward to the creation of such a plan for the commonwealth."

The plan will be based on research by the consulting firm and information culled from seven public input sessions to be held across the state in the coming month. Residents also may fill out an online survey.

"There isn't a predetermined agenda for the outcome of this strategic plan," said Mandy Lambert, spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Economic Development. "This process will help us identify emerging business sectors and the kinds of jobs Kentucky should target."

A prominent University of Kentucky researcher questioned, though, whether a consultant-produced plan is the best step for the state.

"Kentucky faces some significant challenges going forward," said Ken Troske, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UK. "Before designing new strategies going forward, we need to do a very careful assessment, essentially an inventory, of where are we right now.

"We need to examine what we think will be significant changes and how well-suited we are to handle those changes."

Troske questioned whether all Kentuckians have a good understanding of the state's current economy.

"Less than 1 percent of the state is involved in coal or agriculture," he said, noting the common misperception. He also said it might surprise some to learn the state's top export overseas is airplane parts, followed by chemicals.

"There's a lot of data out there," he said. "I think it's much better to do a study that's deeper ... than an economic development consulting firm would be capable of conducting."