Kentucky's business landscape has a lot going for it. We're centrally located, our industrial power costs are among the lowest in the nation and last year Site Selection magazine ranked Kentucky's business climate eighth in the nation.
Even with these attributes and many more, however, new and expanding companies are too often looking away from Kentucky. Perhaps worse, some never even glance our way.
It's because these companies will only operate in a right-to-work state. It's as simple as that.
The growing preference of business and industry means right to work is about competition. That's what is at the heart of the issue. It's about competition with neighboring Tennessee and Virginia and the rest of the South. In recent years, that competition has grown to include right-to-work states Indiana and Michigan.
Hardin Fiscal Court recently took a step in increasing our competitiveness by passing its own right-to-work ordinance. We are the fifth Kentucky county to do so, joining Warren, Simpson, Fulton and Todd.
As expected, unions responded by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville. The legal question is whether a county government has the authority to pass the ordinance.
A state home-rule law gives county governments the latitude to promote economic development and make decisions on issues not covered by state law. Additionally, legal experts including former Kentucky Supreme Court justices Joseph Lambert and Will Graves have given opinions that support Hardin Fiscal Court's action.
As the legal battle begins over the county's ordinance, the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce encourages the entire community to express support for fiscal court's move and for the members' legal reasoning.
We want to be more competitive. We want to make the short lists and have the opportunity to sell all the great reasons to invest in Hardin County. We want to do everything we can to create more jobs.
In my personal experience — which includes positions with the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership and Hardin County — it's clear that right-to-work is about competition. It's about economic development. It's about new jobs. I've been in too many meetings over the past 25 years where Kentucky lost out because a company would not consider a non-right-to-work state.
A number of opponents have asked me to name one of these companies, but the site selection process demands confidentiality. Economic development professionals know that discussing a company damages their credibility as well as the area they represent.
After the Great Recession began, a lot of companies were forced to readjust or postpone any expansions. Now, many companies across the country and the globe are poised to launch or grow. I have no doubt that those who look will find Kentucky has a lot to offer. But more will see the offerings of our southern neighbors, nearby Indiana and in Michigan, a legend in the automotive manufacturing industry that is critical to our own state's growth.
As our community works to retain, grow and attract businesses, we must recognize that right-to-work is a critical tool. Not a cure-all, but a heavy-duty tool. The Hardin Fiscal Court ordinance provides that tool, helps level the playing field and gives our community a competitive advantage.