Jim Host says focus on manufacturing must be part of Kentucky's economic future

08/04/2011 07:44 AM

Some economists have downplayed the importance of manufacturing as new computer and service industries popped up. But Kentucky businessman Jim Host said manufacturing will always be needed and the I-64 corridor can capitalize on that.

“There is no reason we can’t become a huge economic engine of the United States with where we are geographically located and if we make dramatic change of how we go about manufacturing,” he said (see the 5:20 mark of the video).

Host, the former Commerce Secretary under Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority, is the chair of a study group seeking to make the area between Lexington and Louisville an advanced manufacturing haven. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray formed the study group and are getting help from the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

“Both Mayor Fischer and Mayor Gray come from a business background, and this is their idea,” Host said on Wednesday’s edition of Pure Politics. “There has been an attitude of togetherness. And we are going to focus, at the request of the mayors, on advanced manufacturing. And the reason for advanced manufacturing is because we got Ford on one end, Toyota on the other end.” (see the 3:00 mark of the clip)

The conversation between Gray and Fischer started at the UK-U of L game this past year. Host said the mayors spent the entire game talking, and came to him to talk about taking their business expertise forward to make an economic impact on the interstate between their cities.

“You will always have to have manufacturing. You gotta build appliances, you gotta build cars. You’ve got to build stuff,” Host said. “Why shouldn’t we be the center of the export for this country.” (see the 8:20 mark of the clip)

Host said his hope is Kentucky would become a place where manufacturers locate, where education and training programs geared their curriculum toward filling those advanced manufacturing jobs, and allowing the state to prosper.


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