Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Kentucky Association for Economic Development's Annual Conference in Hopkinsville. The event brought together economic development professionals from across the state to discuss everything from site preparedness to media relations.
It was a great conference - I met lots of new people, talked with several of our members, and learned some new things.
As I was driving home on the Western Kentucky Parkway I had plenty of time to think about transportation's role in economic development. Our airports, roads, transit services, railroads, and riverports are at the heart of economic development. The access an interconnected, well maintained transportation infrastructure provides is exactly what companies who are looking to locate a site crave.
Companies - whether they are manufacturers or call centers - want to be able to move their product and/or their people easily, dependably, and quickly. They want access and we have it.
I've quoted the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development many times - reminding people that our state is 600 miles from 60% of the nation's population and wealth centers.
600 miles isn't far. To give you an idea - that is about a day's drive by car or truck - if you have a good road network. That means if a potential company wants to move freight, they can move it by road from Kentucky to more than one half the U.S. population in one day.
Planning, designing, and building our transportation infrastructure is as important to economic development as any incentive package we can offer. As a state, we can't forget that.
We have to educate our elected officials, community leaders, and our citizens about the role our transportation network plays in economic development. And we have to encourage them to support maintaining and improving the transportation assets their community already has so when a new company does come to town or an existing company wants to expand, the transportation infrastructure is already in place.
There are so many reasons to build a new facility or expand an existing operation in Kentucky. Economic Development professionals can easily and honestly tout our great people, reasonable housing costs, and the Commonwealth's convenient location.
What many people often forget is that we have an incredible transportation infrastructure that connects our people to work, our products to consumers, and our state to the rest of the world.