WITH MORE THAN 3,800 member businesses in every county, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is not only the premier policy advocate for Kentucky businesses, but is a resource for its members as well.
“As Kentucky businesses face new opportunities and challenges, we hope to serve as a clearinghouse of information, connecting businesses with resources and with each other,” says Kentucky Chamber Ashli Watts, president and CEO.
Among its members is Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops that shares a similar mission to support the interests of Kentucky co-op consumer-members through advocacy and education.
“Co-ops aim to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve, and the Kentucky Chamber is a key ally in that effort,” says Chris Perry, the co-op association’s president and CEO. Perry serves on the board of the Chamber.
Both Perry and Watts point to Kentucky’s affordable and reliable access to energy as one of its most important economic development tools.
“It’s one of the top reasons we have been able to build a strong manufacturing economy,” Watts says.
Interacting with policymakers in Frankfort and Washington, D.C., the Chamber and electric cooperatives work together to protect, support and promote that competitive energy environment.
To build on the competitive edge that affordable, reliable energy provides for Kentucky, the Chamber identifies three major policy priorities:
Improve our workforce–Kentucky has the third lowest workforce participation rate in the nation. “We need to increase worker availability and close skills gaps to ensure businesses have the workers they need to grow and so that we can attract new businesses,” Watts says.
Invest in infrastructure–The American Society of Civil Engineers gives Kentucky’s roads and bridges barely-passing grades. The Chamber says to protect Kentucky’s status as a global logistics hub and manufacturing state, it needs to increase investment in infrastructure. “Every state surrounding Kentucky has taken steps to increase infrastructure investment,” Watts says. “Kentucky needs to catch up.”
Reform tax policy–State tax policy influences business decisions and individual behavior. The Chamber is calling for a tax code that encourages economic growth and investment in Kentucky. “According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, states such as Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina have more economically competitive tax codes than Kentucky,” Watts says. “We need to enact bold reforms to increase Kentucky’s competitiveness and support economic growth.”