A nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., will help a Lexington and Louisville business initiative develop a plan to bring more foreign investment into the region, Lexington and Louisville officials announced Tuesday.
The Brookings Institution, dedicated to research and various policy initiatives, will help craft a plan over the next nine to 10 months for the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, called BEAM.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer launched the initiative in 2011 as a way to unite and strengthen business development in the area. The Brookings Institution helped BEAM draft an export plan aimed at increasing the number of businesses that export products to other countries and the total number of exports from the area.
The new initiative to attract foreign direct investment dovetails with Brookings’ export plan, Gray said Tuesday.
That export plan has been successful, Gray said.
“Exports in our region have outpaced the nation,” he said. In 2011, BEAM set a target of increasing exports by 50 percent in five years. It achieved that goal in just three years.
Gray said foreign investment in Kentucky companies can lead to job growth and better wages.
“There is a track record of higher salaries at companies with higher foreign direct investment,” he said.
For example, Clark Material Handling is owned by a South Korean company. It announced in January a $4.8 million expansion of its Lexington operation and plans to add 30 full-time jobs. It is shifting production of some forklift trucks from Mexico to Lexington.
Gray, the former CEO of Gray Construction, said Gray Construction realized more than 30 years ago that it needed to chase foreign investment to stay competitive. It opened an office in Japan and later in Germany. Gray Construction built the Georgetown-based Toyota plant.
Although much of BEAM’s focus has been on advanced manufacturing, Gray said the foreign-directed investment plan also would look at other fields such as pharmaceuticals and professional services. The Brookings plan will identify patterns of investment and then develop a plan to draw that investment to the Louisville and Lexington area, he said.
“We want to have the ability to target and identify certain countries and sectors of industry,” Gray said. Once the plan is complete, BEAM will work with state economic development officials to lure foreign investment to the area.