Report from America: Frankfort, Kentucky and the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers

By February 13, 2007Report from America

Report from AmericaYesterday found the blogger-in-chief in the cold Kentucky rain of Frankfort Kentucky at the “Prosperous Kentucky” Summit hosted by the newly-named Kentucky Association of Manufacturers. Bravo to the KAM for inserting “Manufacturers” into their name, as they were formerly Associated Industries of Kentucky. Glad the new KAM decided to wear it proudly.

Kentucky, as you may not be aware, is a major manufacturing state, and there are tons of NAM members there. Manufacturing is responsible for some $26 billion — or 20% — of the state’s Gross Domestic Product, and a few hundred thousand jobs. The program opened with Kentucky Adjutant Gen. Donald Storm who gave just a great speech about the global war on terror — and the enormous contribution of the Kentucky National Guard — and referred to the assembled manufacturers as, “The folks who pay the bill.” There’s no doubt about that. They pay a lot of bills, send a lot of money up to Washington for them to spend on all sorts of stuff.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) was there, stole the blogger-in-chief’s thunder (not hard to do) by giving one of the most pro-manufacturing speeches we’ve ever heard. He correctly debunked a lot of myths about manufacturing in decline but gave a cautionary tale about the costs coming from Washington. When he finished, he was presented with the NAM’s Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence. In the 109th Congress, he voted with us a whopping 96% of the time. (Anyone who votes with us over 70% of the time gets the award, remember.) He not only talks the talk (heck, even John Edwards does that — and he scored 8%), he walks the walk, fighting every day for manufacturers, fighting to make us more competitive.

He was followed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, another great friend of manufacturing. He recalled our work together on a bunch of issues when he was in Congress — also winning our award. A physician, he was at times a lone voice on such ill-advised legislation as the so-called Patient’s Bill of Rights, a voice that we sorely needed at the time. He has been tested of late in Kentucky, but his speech, too, was a reaffirmation of the importance of — and his commitment to — manufacturing. He’s a great Governor, has created lots of jobs during his tenure. Would that all governors were as conscious as Ernie Fletcher about creating a climate in their states that allows manufacturing to survive and prosper. And, he is one of the most decent men in politics today — a low bar, maybe, but he’s a great guy.

All in all it was a great event and a great day. We even ran into our old buddy Rich Gimmel, President of Atlas Machine and Supply in Louisville. He handed us his card and tapped on the logo noting “A Century of Solutions.”

“It’s our hundredth year,” he said proudly, and deservedly so. Rich served a time in broadcast news before returning to the family business, but now — like all manufacturers — is just proud of his company and the stuff they make. It’s always great to be among manufacturers. These guys and gals power the economy, make prosperity wherever they go.

Thanks to Andy Meko of KAM for his hospitality and leadership. Through their ProsperousKentucky program, they are re-casting the image of manufacturing into what it truly is: The sector that drives the rest of the economy.

Today in that room, you couldn’t help but feel the manufacturing vibe.