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Op-Ed: Investment in Infrastructure is Needed to Grow Economy

As most of you know, Kentucky is a logistics hub, with three global shipping centers, 20 interstates and major highways, major railways, barge traffic on two large rivers, and more than 65 commercial and regional airports. 

In Northern Kentucky businesses depend heavily on our international airport (the largest airport in Kentucky), the Ohio River, major railways, public transit, and interstates 71 and 75. Infrastructure has been a strong recruiting tool for companies such as Amazon, which is investing almost $1.5 billion and creating 2,700 jobs as it establishes a worldwide cargo hub.

Because cars, trucks, boats, planes and trains are so important to our economy, transportation challenges are regularly a topic of conversation at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 

We find ourselves regularly asking these questions:

“How do we get employees to and from work quickly so they can enjoy a high quality of life?”

“How do we get our goods and services from ‘Point A to Point B’ within a reasonable and predictable timeframe?”

“How can we grow our collective economy when the money used for roads and bridges depends on funding that is dwindling?” 

As the legislative session in Frankfort progressed these past months, some of our elected officials have been attempting to provide answers.

Led by State Representative Sal Santoro, Chair of the House Budget Review Subcommittee for Transportation, they have been working on a comprehensive road plan (House Bill 609) that would increase revenue for our roads and bridges, while improving the fairness of how road funds are distributed throughout the state. 

When you combine this approach with the removal of the reformulated gas (RFG) requirement in Northern Kentucky, our region will be paying less for fuel, and getting more of our fair share back from Frankfort!  

This is a winning formula for our region, and the state. 

These leaders understand that to accommodate job growth, we must maintain our transportation infrastructure and ensure that it can handle the future needs of our industries, communities and workforce.

They have heard from the business community, loud and clear, that transportation is a deciding factor in whether a business, and their employees, will choose a new location.

In fact, according to Area Development Magazine’s 2016 survey of corporate executives, highway accessibility is the most important factor in site selection.

It’s an important selling point as we market the state to companies across the country and around the globe.

And that’s why Kentucky must increase investment in our roads, railways, airports, commercial waterways and ports, and public transportation.

The time to act is now. Delays will drive up the costs and put us further behind our competitor states, many of which have already increased their investments in infrastructure.

That’s why we urge lawmakers to move forward with House Bill 609. The bill would increase the investment for maintenance and construction on Kentucky's roadways. It also would create a new fund for all modes of transportation.

Increased investment in transportation infrastructure is crucial to Kentucky’s economy, our workforce, and safety. House Bill 609 provides an important first step to ensuring that all our modes of transportation will meet the needs of our workers, families, schools and job creators.

Brent Cooper is the president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce