During the Kentucky Chamber's Annual Meeting (presented by Bingham Greenebaum Doll) on July 22, Chairman Jim Booth, president and CEO of Booth Energy, outlined the Kentucky Chamber's accomplishments during the past year and lauded the Chamber's membership for helping to support our mission of uniting business and advancing Kentucky.
“Many of you tonight are business leaders who work hard every day to compete, to grow, and to innovate in your industry," said Booth. “You provide thousands of jobs for Kentucky families, and you make our hometowns great places to live.”
Leading the battle cry on public pension reform
The Chamber led the battle cry on public pension reform during the 2013 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Kentucky’s bond ratings had already been downgraded three times, and our state was ranked near the bottom in fiscal health. To solve the problem, more than 50 business organizations rallied behind the Chamber to make Kentucky lawmakers aware of the train wreck that would occur if the public pension systems were not reformed substantially.
In addition to maintaining constant pressure on the pension issue at the Capitol, we created an unprecedented statewide media campaign urging legislators to pass meaningful reforms. We’re proud to say that these efforts and a strong bipartisan effort by Governor Beshear, Senate President Stivers and Speaker Greg Stumbo resulted in the adoption of a more sustainable retirement plan that will save taxpayers more than $10 billion over the next 20 years.
Helping the state take major strides in education
The Kentucky Chamber’s top overall priority – improving education – also made progress during the 2013 session. Three key bills passed through a bipartisan effort:
First, the high school dropout age, championed by Governor and Ms. Beshear, was raised from 16 to 18.
Second, qualified high school students can now graduate early.
Third, the Kentucky Board of Education is now required to establish an evaluation system for teachers and principals, that takes into account student progress.
The Chamber has also been working to improve education on its own.
The Kentucky Chamber Foundation created the Leadership Institute for School Principals in 2011. Since then, the Chamber has invested more than $1.5 million and offered more than 150 school principals from across the state executive-level leadership training at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. Chamber members across Kentucky have stepped up to sponsor principals from their home counties at $9,000 per principal.
The Chamber is also continuing its push to encourage educators and lawmakers to stay the course with Kentucky’s new, tougher, academic standards. Kentucky was the first of 45 states to adopt the Common Core Standards and for the first time, we’ll be able to compare our student’s progress against international standards.
Chamber president Dave Adkisson toured the state with Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to present the message together – business supporting education. To add some muscle behind this message, a group of nearly 70 Kentucky business leaders, led by Hilliard Lyons CEO Jim Allen, formed Business Leader Champions for Education to support Kentucky’s efforts to build a world-class workforce.
Outlining the fundamentals of a competitive business climate
Employers in Kentucky need a business climate that is competitive on both national and international levels. Last year, we took a close look at how the state compares to surrounding states. Our “Ready for Jobs” report showed good news and bad news. Kentucky enjoys excellent rankings in the cost of living, the cost of doing business, and scores better than average in our business tax climate and infrastructure. We also have lower-than-average health insurance and workers’ compensation costs. However, we trail the nation in income, poverty, health status, education attainment and tort liability. Just like any business, our Commonwealth cannot afford to gloss over its weaknesses; we have to hit them head on and find solutions. The Chamber has developed specific strategies for overcoming these challenges.
Creating savings and education opportunities for kentucky’s business community
Outside of the Capitol, the Chamber hosted more than 40 seminars for Kentucky’s businesses, and we’ve had record-breaking attendance at those events. We’ve also placed a large emphasis on educating Kentucky businesses on the impact the federal healthcare law will have in the state. The Chamber recently launched a web portal that details the changes that are coming.
Over the past several months, the Chamber has also created a partnership with Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance that can save Chamber members up to 40% on workers’ compensation insurance – a huge savings for some companies. And a program with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) offers up to 25% savings on payroll and benefit services. We’re also working to create an online marketplace for purchasing health insurance and other employee benefits.
Meeting our challenges head-on
Here in Kentucky, we face some serious challenges: tax reform, educating our future workforce, creating new companies and sustaining the ones we’ve got, attracting new businesses and overcoming poverty and drug abuse.
All of these are challenges where the business community has to be at the table and in some cases, provide leadership. That’s why your support is critical. Our mission remains the same, and our motto says it best: “Uniting Business, Advancing Kentucky.”