Politics & Government

Beshear touts plan to create agritech and advanced manufacturing jobs in Kentucky

Kentucky Democratic nominee for governor Andy Beshear speaks Saturday, August 3, 2019, at the St. Jerome Parish Picnic in Fancy Farm. Ky.
Kentucky Democratic nominee for governor Andy Beshear speaks Saturday, August 3, 2019, at the St. Jerome Parish Picnic in Fancy Farm. Ky. John Flavell

Democrat Andy Beshear pledged Wednesday to bring “good-paying agritech and advanced manufacturing jobs” to Kentucky if he is elected governor.

Beshear’s job promise was the first part of his so-called “Kitchen Table Agenda,” a plan he said will benefit Kentucky’s “working families.” He said he will release other parts of the plan in coming weeks.

Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general, faces Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the Nov. 5 general election for governor.

“We’re focused on creating good-paying jobs of the future, where Kentucky has the opportunity to lead the country,” Beshear said at a news conference in Ashland with his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, and members of Plumbers and Pipefiters Local 248.

“Kentuckians work hard, but our families are still having trouble keeping up with the bills, much less being able to save for retirement or cover the costs of higher education for their kids,” he said.

To create more agrictech and advanced manufacturing jobs, Beshear proposed creating partnerships with universities and agricultural leaders to develop “agritech accelerators” that encourage startups and new small businesses. He also suggested the state should move away from expensive incentives for companies that don’t create “family-supporting jobs” and instead provide them for growth industries, such as agritech and advanced manufacturing.

If elected, he pledged to expand micro-loan programs to help small businesses, partner with labor unions to create workforce grant programs for lower-income adults, and invest in community and technical colleges to provide skills that align with needs of local employers

Kentucky’s median wage is not enough to meet a family’s budget and personal income is dropping in several rural counties, he warned.

He was referring to a recent report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy that said the average Kentuckian’s wages remained flat in 2018 at $17.09 an hour compared to $17.06 in 2017 and an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader that reported income falling in several Appalachian Kentucky counties as coal sales dwindle.

Beshear also said Bevin “consistently attacks two of the most important pillars of Kentucky’s rural economies: public education and health care.

Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said Bevin has “successfully partnered with President Trump to create over 55,000 new jobs, leading to the lowest unemployment rate in Kentucky history. More people are working today in Kentucky than ever before.”

Bevin has said he envisions Kentucky being “the undisputed center of engineering and manufacturing excellence.”

He touts that companies have announced plans to create 55,143 new jobs and invest $20.1 billion at 1,191 new or expanded facilities during his tenure as governor.

Beshear said CNBC ranks Kentucky only the 39th best state to do business and ranked Kentucky’s workforce 40th in the nation.

“We must do better for our people by implementing a robust jobs agenda that prioritizes workers — not out-of-state corporations and CEOs,” said Beshear.

Adkins, who lost to Beshear in last May’s Democratic primary election for governor, said he is looking forard to “working with Andy Beshear on creating jobs that pay a living wage, especially in areas that have been hit hard economically like Eastern Kentucky.”

After winning the Republican nomination in his re-election bid, Gov. Matt Bevin said he and Democrat Andy Beshear will offer Kentucky voters a "very clear and distinct choice to make."

Andy Beshear speaks to supporters after winning the Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial primary at the C2 Event Venue in Louisville.

Jack Brammer is Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has covered politics and government in Kentucky since 1978. He has a Master’s in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a native of Maysville, Ky.