How Economic Freedom Is Reinventing Kentucky’s Industrial Sectors: Opinion

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If you ask most people in business or finance, they will tell you that major innovations and economic opportunities are limited to the coasts. It’s a remarkably myopic view, and one that sells the Heartland of America — and Kentucky — way too short.

I believe Kentucky is an exceptional place for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to start or grow their business, and it could be even better. The Commonwealth offers huge benefits to businesses that establish their base here. My strong belief in Kentucky is evidenced by the opening of Rubicon’s new headquarters in downtown Lexington, and we hope other organizations will follow.

Many organizations have already done this. Sprocket recently announced an innovation hub in Paducah, Novelis announced a $365 million recycling center in Guthrie, and overall Kentucky saw a 21% increase in new business creation over the past of the past year, with 52,774 new businesses created.

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We are witnessing the re-emergence of the heartland as the engine of business and innovation. Economic freedom means business owners are free to choose solutions that make financial sense for their business. More and more business leaders are choosing to invest in the American Heartland.

How do you reinvigorate that dynamic here in Kentucky, where growth has been half as fast as neighboring Tennessee and where labor force participation has been declining for decades? Tax reform will help. Reducing our commonwealth’s notoriously high income tax and targeting tax relief to Kentuckians earning $100,000 or less a year will spur innovation, boost the economy, and encourage more of our Kentucky-born sons and daughters to stay in the Commonwealth, innovate in the Commonwealth and grow the Commonwealth with their big ideas.

Take on today’s supply chain challenges. The global shortage of computer chips has led Intel to invest $20 billion in a new chip factory in Ohio. Hopefully, this move will create jobs in Ohio, drive new investment into the nation’s heartland, and address a real challenge facing businesses today.

Why Ohio and not Kentucky? You should ask Intel, but one reason could be that they recently cut their income taxes. Ohio has also focused on education and workforce development — efforts Kentucky would do well to emulate.

Intel was a missed opportunity for Kentucky. We must raise the bar. The goal should not be to be tied with Ohio or Tennessee but to surpass them. It means strong leadership and a vision for the future.

Kentucky is poised to meet the 21st century challenge of reinventing industrial sectors with ideals of economic freedom and technology. Manufacturing is strong in Kentucky, accounting for more than one-fifth of the state’s overall gross domestic product. Its position at the center of the nation has made it a perfect location for the hubs of logistics companies like UPS and Amazon.

At Rubicon, we proudly chose our home state of Kentucky as the base of our global operations, where we use software and technology to transform the waste and recycling industry. Given the state’s central geographic location and the fact that Kentucky is the birthplace of Rubicon, it was the most natural choice. Moreover, this decision is a signal to our customers, partners and employees that we are committed to supporting the economic growth of communities everywhere, not only through what we do as a company, but through where we choose to operate.

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World-changing ideas can come from anywhere, and fostering innovation is the central tradition of American business. The American free market is the greatest engine of innovation in the history of the world. There’s no reason our tradition of leadership can’t continue – and grow – into the 21st century.

By expanding our presence in Kentucky with our new global headquarters, we are committed to leading on this front with both a business and philanthropic presence. I hope we won’t be alone.

Nate Morris is the president and CEO of Lexington-based Rubicon and chair of the Concordia Lexington Summit slated for April to create partnerships that tackle divisiveness and improve economic empowerment for all.

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