If you ask most people in business or finance, they will tell you that great innovation and economic opportunity are confined to the shores. That’s a remarkably short-sighted view, and one that far short-sells heartland America — and Kentucky.
I believe that Kentucky is an excellent place for entrepreneurs and executives looking to start or grow their businesses, and it could be even better. The Commonwealth offers tremendous benefits for companies locating here. My strong belief in Kentucky is demonstrated by the opening of Rubicon’s new headquarters in Lexington City Center, and we hope other organizations will follow suit.
Many organizations have already done this. Sprocket recently announced an innovation center in Paducah, Novelis announced a $365 million recycling center in Guthrie, and overall, Kentucky saw a 21% increase in startups last year with 52,774 startups.
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We see the heartland’s resurgence as a driving force for business and innovation. Economic freedom means that executives are free to choose solutions that make financial sense for their company. More and more entrepreneurs are choosing to invest in America’s heartland.
How do we revitalize that drive here in Kentucky, where growth has been half the speed of neighboring Tennessee and labor force participation has been declining for decades? The tax reform helps. Reducing our Commonwealth’s notoriously high income tax and targeting tax breaks for Kentucky residents who earn $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, in the Commonwealth to innovate and grow the Commonwealth with their big ideas.
Face the current challenges of the supply chain. The global shortage of computer chips has prompted Intel to invest $20 billion in a new chip factory in Ohio. Hopefully this move will create jobs in Ohio, lead to more investment in the heartland, and address a real challenge facing businesses today.
Why Ohio and not Kentucky? You’d have to ask Intel, but one reason could be that they recently cut their income taxes. Ohio has also focused on education and human resource development — efforts that Kentucky should emulate.
Intel was a missed opportunity for Kentucky. We need to raise the bar. The goal shouldn’t be to match Ohio or Tennessee, but to surpass them. That means strong leadership and a vision for the future.
Kentucky is ready to take on 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 total gross domestic product. Its location in the center of the nation has made it a perfect location for hubs for logistics companies such as UPS and Amazon.
At Rubicon, we’ve proudly chosen our home state of Kentucky as the base of our global operations, where we apply software and technology to transform the waste and recycling industry. Given the state’s central geographical location and the fact that Kentucky is Rubicon’s birthplace, this was the most obvious choice. Additionally, this step 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 also through our location.
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World-changing ideas can come from anywhere, and fostering innovation is at the core of American business tradition. The American free market is the greatest driver of innovation in world history. There’s no reason our heritage of leadership can’t continue—and expand—in the 21st century.
As we expand our presence in Kentucky with our new global headquarters, we are committed to providing leadership on this front from both a business and philanthropic presence. I trust we won’t be alone.
Nate Morris is the Lexington-based chairman and CEO of Rubicon and the chair of the Concordia Lexington Summit scheduled for April to create partnerships that will address the drivers of division and enhance economic empowerment for all.