By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Wednesday was “Business Appreciation Day” in Corbin. And along with a free lunch for the business community, the City of Corbin served up Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson as guest speaker.
There were several ingredients Abramson brought in his speech to the luncheon at the Corbin Technical Center. One was the need for Kentucky’s business climate to grow and expand. Another one was the need for a skilled workforce in the state, adding the two go hand-in-hand.
He seasoned his speech with the importance of an educated workplace in a changing world. And he closed his time at the podium with ways on making the state’s tax codes more fair, from a business perspective.
After he spoke, Abramson talked about another concept he’s high on — regionalism, and its benefits to those areas affected, such as Southeastern Kentucky.
“Whether business locates in Whitley, Knox or Laurel counties, the reality is, wherever that business locates, great things happen. Corbin, Williamsburg, Barbourville and London can feed off on each other’s strengths in business, industry, commerce, quality of life. The entire region benefits. We did that at home in six counties in the Louisville area, and it works in Northern Kentucky,” Abramson said.
The Lieutenant Governor expounded on communities working together in his earlier remarks to the audience.
“In terms of business, things are going good, thanks to partnerships with us, and city and county governments. That’s how things get done. It takes a partnership to make things work.”
Moments later, Abramson had some words of cautious optimism about the current state of the economy. He closed with what he called the one need business people want most.
“We’ve had a lot of growth here in Corbin, but in reality, we’ve had some hardships economically as a nation. It seems as we travel throughout the Commonwealth that there is some light at the end of the railroad tunnel. Labor statistics showed Kentucky was number one in the nation for job creation. The bad news, it was a 2.6 percent increase. We have to continue to grow and expand. We have to make sure we have the infrastructure, and that our colleges and universities are getting students career ready. We want to insure this when the economy does grow again. We have the tools ready to help the growth. We need a skilled, educated, productive, and drug-free workforce.”
Adding that all states give incentives for business and industry to locate, Abramson stressed the need for a strong workforce by zeroing in on education. An example of that is the “Close the Deal” initiative, which creates a college-going culture in high school for students not yet considering higher education, and challenges seniors to go for additional education after graduation.
“Understand the importance of community colleges. Understand the importance of EKU’s center in Corbin. Understand the career-college approach is so important.”
Abramson also spoke of ways to make Kentucky’s tax code more responsive to the economy’s ups and downs, and to make taxes more fair and equal for residents of the state.
“The biggest issue the Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky has is ‘Single Factor Apportionment,’” he stated.
Gov. Steve Beshear’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform, headed by Abramson and made up of 23 members, recommended Kentucky should adopt an “apportionment formula,” based on a single-factor, sales. The “single factor apportionment” formula would make the state more competitive with other states by encouraging jobs and investment growth. The commission noted the change could be phased in over several years, similar to what’s done in other states.
According to the Tax Reform Commission’s website, the five goals include a tax system that treats people equally, attracts jobs and investment while keeping and protecting jobs and business already existing, an easy to understand and follow tax system, a tax code that mirrors economic performance, and a tax structure that generates sufficient funds to support critical state services.
“We have a lot of ideas, about 95-96 of ‘em, on how to change the tax code,” Abramson said.
He closed by encouraging those at the luncheon to work for improving to make Kentucky a place to do business and live.
“No matter how large or small your community is, the issues are all the same. We want clean air and water, good education, good jobs and all the things that will have a good quality for our kids and grandkids. You can help make that positive change.”