BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (WBKO) – On Thursday, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Kentucky Chamber Day event, but this year it was virtual.
“We look forward to hopefully holding a personal version of this event later this year and look forward to bringing you remarks from state leaders while the legislature is in full swing,” said Winston Griffin, KY Chamber Board Chairman and CEO from Laurel Grocery Company said.
Chamber Day each year is an opportunity for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to share its achievements and visions for economic development with the state with leading Kentucky legislatures and to hear the priorities of Kentucky MPs. 2021 is unlike any other year as discussions focused on revitalizing an economy weakened by a global pandemic.
“Chamber Day is an integral part of every legislative session, the largest annual gathering of business and government officials in Kentucky, for as long as I attend,” said Ashli Watts, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Watts pointed out some of the challenges Kentucky companies are currently facing: “There are 177,000 people out of the workforce we will have there as of February 2020. And for the past nine months, Kentucky has fallen to 50th on the employee participation list, Kentucky first wave and vaccination is starting, hope is on the horizon but there is still a lot to be done, ”said Watts.
She stressed the need for more investment in the state’s infrastructure, repaying unemployment loans to the federal government, and maintaining historic horse races as part of the state’s identity.
“Investing in our infrastructure is the best lawmaker can do to really grow and invest or achieve economic recovery, and we cannot afford to wait,” said Watts.
Kentucky House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins and Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey also spoke at the event, discussing what they would like this term to be achieved.
“The first place to address our challenges is on the budget,” said McGarvey. “We need to invest in public health and mental health, in small business aid funds and in unemployment.”
Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne spoke next. He also talked about the state budget, remembering where Kentucky was before the pandemic compared to today.
“Kentucky has regained about two-thirds of the jobs we lost in the pandemic, but still has 90,000 fewer jobs than last March,” Osborne said.
While Osborne remains optimistic about the future, he said they are continuing to look at COVID-19 relief measures along with corporate liability protection. Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers, who also delivered a speech at the event, said they were looking to a more conservative budget.
“As we have advanced in the discussions, we want to make sure that we are very careful in what we do, that we are conservative in what we do, that we adopt policies that will help us make better economic ones Opportunities to create state in the world, ”said Stivers.
He mentioned that the state of the economy and the return to “normal” will depend on how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are.
“This shot and the effectiveness of that shot will determine how our economy will develop,” said Stivers. “That’s why we’re careful about how we handle our budget. And we don’t want to do anything that could hinder a return to normal. “
Kentucky Andy Beshear was the final Chamber Day speaker. After speaking about the state’s response to COVID-19 and thanking companies for doing their part to protect their employees, Governor Beshear spoke his budget plan also suggests bolder investments and facilities for Kentucky businesses.
“We are on the threshold of a new economic era. Corporations and other countries see it and plan and invest knowing that a new economy lies ahead. We have to do the same here in Kentucky to be competitive, ”said Beshear. “Not acting now, not investing, not seeing and fulfilling the future would miss this unique opportunity to be one step ahead of other states and to lead this post-COVID economy.”
Governor Beshear also pledged to use funds to repay the large federal loan the state raised to replenish its unemployment insurance trust fund.
The General Assembly will continue to meet this week. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is now celebrating its 75th anniversary.
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