“Gov. Beshear and our party are doing even more for rural Kentucky than President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Washington are doing for rural America – and that’s a lot,” said Kenny Fogle, the deputy political director of the KY Democratic Party.
Fogle, a Nelson countian who packs an IBEW local 369 card, was referring to a recent New York Times guest column by Robert Leonard, an Iowa author who writes about the politics and culture of his state and the Midwest:
“In under two years in office, President Biden has done more for places like Guthrie County [Iowa] and other parts of rural America than Mr. Trump ever did. The rural economy is stronger, wages are higher, and infrastructure projects are popping up all over.”
And the same is true in Kentucky
That goes for Kentucky, too – big-time, Fogle said, pointing to a January news release from Beshear’s Cabinet for Economic Development:
“Gov. Andy Beshear said last year’s books have officially closed and Kentucky indeed shattered the all-time records for investment and job creation last year – with 264 private-sector new-location and expansion projects committed to invest over $11.2 billion and create over 18,100 full-time jobs.
“Wages are rising in the commonwealth as well, as Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide in 2021 was $24 before benefits, a 9.4% increase over the previous year and the second highest mark of the past seven years.”
The release quoted the governor: “The past year has included a number of challenges, from our continued fight against the pandemic to the tragic tornadoes that impacted so many lives in Western Kentucky. But it has also been a year of hope, with great reason to believe the future is bright in the commonwealth. This record year of economic growth means well-paying jobs for Kentuckians throughout the state and a vibrant, diverse economy that can support our workforce in the face of whatever challenges arise in the years ahead. I want to thank every company that has bet their future on Kentucky and our workforce. I look forward to continuing this record-breaking momentum in 2022.”
In addition, the release said that “since the start of the Beshear administration in December 2019, more than 570 new-location and expansion projects have contributed to over $13.6 billion in new investments and more than 27,000 full-time jobs announced.
Including the rural parts of the state
Kentucky’s record 2021 included the single largest economic development project in the state’s history. In September, Gov. Beshear, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chair Bill Ford, CEO Jim Farley and Dong-Seob Jee, president of SK Innovation’s battery business, announced a transformative $5.8 billion investment to establish the BlueOvalSK Battery Park in Hardin County, which will create 5,000 jobs and places Kentucky at the forefront of the automotive industry’s future.
“The governor’s economic development throughout the state hasn’t discriminated against rural Kentucky,” Fogle said. “Even plants that operate in urban areas attract many workers from rural areas who commute to work because pay and benefits are so good, especially if they’re union plants.”
He also credited Beshear for generating “a tremendous amount of grant money for infrastructure,” much of it in non-urban areas of the state.
Beshear took personal charge of state tornado relief for communities devastated by the deadly Dec. 10 twisters that roared through western Kentucky, according to Fogle. “He was on the ground down there somewhere nearly every day.”
Beshear joined up with President Biden in surveying storm damage in Graves County seat Mayfield, and Dawson Springs, two of the hardest-hit towns. Dawson Springs, in rural Hopkins County, is the home of Beshear’s dad, former Gov. Steve Beshear.
And not just dollars – health too
Even deadlier than the tornados — which claimed 80 lives statewide — has been the COVID-19 pandemic, the most lethal worldwide disease outbreak in a century. The virus has killed more than 15,400 Kentuckians. “The number of Covid deaths would be much higher in rural and urban Kentucky if not for the governor’s executive orders,” Fogle said.
Beshear aggressively moved against the pandemic, issuing emergency restrictions to keep Kentuckians out of the hospital and the cemetery. Republican Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron and GOP House and Senate majorities fought Beshear on every turn.
More recently, Beshear outlined a plan that could result in an executive order permitting the use of medical marijuana in Kentucky. “This would have a tremendous effect on rural Kentucky,” Fogle said, noting that the GOP majorities blocked a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the just-concluded session of the legislature.
Already, the governor’s resurrection of Kynect, the state health care exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act, “is greatly benefitting all Kentuckians, including those in rural areas – many of whom received health care coverage under Kynect for the first time in their lives.”
Steve Beshear created Kynect via executive order in 2013. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who succeeded him, eliminated the exchange in 2016. Andy Beshear restored it last October.
“The governor is going all over the state — including rural Kentucky — listening to people tell him what they need,” Fogle said. “Our party is attuned to the needs of all Kentuckians – rural, small town, and urban.”