Gov. Matt Bevin touted his administration’s economic development record Friday, announcing that businesses have promised to invest a record $5.8 billion in the state so far this year.
That number eclipses the former full-year record of $5.1 billion in 2015.
“We are just getting warmed up,” said the elated Republican governor at a news conference on the front lawn of the state Capitol.
Bevin, who took office in December 2015, said the investments will create about 9,500 jobs.
Much of the total comes from three projects.
In January, Bevin announced a $1.5 billion Amazon air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. That project, which is expected to eventually employ 600 full-time workers and 1,400 part-time workers, is eligible for $40 million in tax incentives.
In April, Bevin announced a $1.33 billion investment by Toyota in its Georgetown manufacturing plant. Toyota is eligible for $43.5 million in state economic development incentives for the project, though it isn’t expected to increase employment at the plant.
Also last month, Bevin said Kentucky will provide up to $10 million in tax incentives to Braidy Industries in exchange for building a $1.3 billion aluminum rolling mill in Greenup County that is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs and 550 permanent jobs with an average hourly salary of $38 when the value of benefits is included. The state also invested $15 million in the company as part of the incentive package.
Bevin said the $15 million expenditure, which the legislature approved in March, was “an investment that Kentucky made in this company, so Kentucky owns a piece of this company.”
Economic Development Cabinet spokesman Jack Mazurak said the money was invested by Commonwealth Seed Capital, an independent investment group created by the state about 20 years ago to invest in early-stage Kentucky companies that are commercializing new technology.
“Commonwealth Seed will hold equity in the company and any returns from Braidy will be used to invest in other new companies,” Mazurak said.
Bevin attributed this year’s growth in business investments to the state legislature’s approval earlier this year of a law that prohibits unions from requiring employees to pay dues in a unionized workplace.
The governor and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, chided the AFL-CIO and Teamsters for filing a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court Thursday that challenges the constitutionality of the law.
Bevin and Stivers contend the lawsuit could stymie economic development in the state. The unions argue the law is discriminatory and unconstitutional because it treats unions differently than other organizations that collect on-the-job fees to cover the costs of benefits.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Sannie Overly, in a written statement, called Bevin’s investments announcement “a sham.”
“Gov. Bevin is telling you that Kentucky has broken a record, but he’s basing that on announced estimates that have not happened yet, and may never happen,” said Overly, who also is a state representative from Paris.