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Kentucky Association Reimagines Economic Development Focusing On Kentucky’s Growth Potential

Kentucky Association

My parents scrapped, worked hard, and continually tried to provide a better life for our family. Mom saved change in our rented kitchen pantry. Dad was a former miner forced to find new employment, and I remember mom giving him a five dollar bill and a bag of canned goods and saying “Goodbye” as he left to go to Morehead State University for a week at a time to help build a better life for our family. Together, my parents supported and provided everything I ever needed. My childhood taught me that prosperity is dependent upon strategic, long-term planning and leveraging skills relative to opportunity. Kentucky has incredible intrinsic attributes like our workforce and geography, and my job is to leverage and broadcast those to the world and to also engineer, via a holistic service portfolio, programs and policies to make Kentucky an ever increasing globally competitive business destination.

Matt Tackett, President & CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development (KAED), knows building communities and families requires steadfast economic development strategies. Although Tackett has less than 12 months at the helm of KAED, his vision to reimagine the Association as a leading force pushing economic growth in Kentucky is yielding results. And that is good for Kentuckians.

KAED is comprised of professionals that dedicate their careers to the advancement of prosperity in the Commonwealth. Economic developers, state and local officials, utility representatives, chamber executives, private stakeholders, and others collaborate in KAED to craft solutions to enhance Kentucky’s global competitiveness.

2018 economic growth for Kentucky continues to build on the 2017 $9.2 billion corporate investments and the 17,200 new jobs created. “Kentucky is a significant player on the world’s economic stage and never has that been more evident than it is today,” according to Governor Matt Bevin. With almost $31 billion in products sold to the international market, Kentucky is seeing record corporate investment and is poised for further economic development growth.

Partnerships and regional strategies drive future economic growth and will mitigate three pressing economic challenges: developing sites and filling buildings with the next generation of companies, training the current workforce and attracting new workers and influencing public tax and financial policy. While these issues are not unique to Kentucky, the aggressive response of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, as a result of a reimagined service portfolio, positions the Commonwealth of Kentucky ahead of other states.

Association members have realized a significant amount of “new” coming from the 51 year old organization. “Our goal is to enhance professional capacity to accelerate economic development in the Commonwealth” states Tackett. And that strategy is providing tangible results as new programming curated within three primary service pillars of education, advocacy, and collaboration have been deployed within the last few months. Tackett notes, “from professional education to aggressive advocacy, KAED must provide a dynamic and holistic service portfolio to develop and nurture Kentucky’s ecosystem. We’ve had legislative wins, successfully facilitated monies to our communities earmarked for economic development, enhanced marketing, and we’ve developed new services; but most importantly, we’ve laid the foundation from which an energized and interdependent ecosystem will build upon to perpetuate our economic momentum,” says Tackett.

The foundation of which Tackett speaks is evident in the Association’s newly reimaged collaboration strategy, as “KAED has redeveloped our series of state-wide conferences to leverage the intellectual and operational capacity that exists within our Commonwealth” states Tackett. Within the KAED collaboration model the Association has identified the following five sectors to convene stakeholders to analyze Kentucky’s assets and opportunity, which will ultimately inform KAED programming.

  1. Product Development
  2. Marketing & Branding
  3. Talent
  4. International
  5. Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Tackett speaks of KAED, relaying that “We’re very serious about building an invigorated, intense, and collaborative #TeamKentucky. We’re equally serious about devoting our energy toward the execution of deliverables identified within our collaborative verticals.” And serious about this #TeamKentucky collaborative strategy, KAED is. The Association is creating initiatives from each sector forum, with an early example of this powerful model coming from within the Product Development group. In 2019, KAED will launch an 18 million dollar initiative to make grants to Kentucky communities for product development to create more A+/investment ready sites by making awards of up to $500,000 per site for physical asset improvement projects. “The Product Development Initiative is transformative and an example of the capacity within KAED, but to really move the needle we have to holistically cultivate our ecosystem and that’s what this #TeamKentucky strategy is all about.”

Speaking of a holistic approach, Tackett highlights a need for interdependent and collaborative marketing, which the Association will address in 2019 as KAED has allocated funding from the Association’s KentuckyUnited program to build the Commonwealth’s first state-wide integrated marketing campaign. A recent partnership with Golden Shovel Agency promises to bring innovation and momentum to the KAED marketing strategy. “Tackett and the KAED board have the right vision and we are excited to further Kentucky’s economic marketing goals,” added Golden Shovel Agency President, John Marshall. “Kentucky is exciting right now!”

“Dynamism is key,” notes Tackett as he affirms KAED’s commitment toward collective strategy execution. “We’re just getting started. We’re building a better platform to offer stronger ROI for KAED members and investors; but more importantly, we’re taking large steps toward the deployment of a portfolio designed to truly accelerate economic development. It’s a great time to invest financial and intellectual capital with KAED.”

As KAED reimagines programming, the Association is breaking records for both membership and corporate investment. Tackett shares that “it is an impactful time to fully integrate within KAED and I believe our ecosystem is beginning to take notice of the opportunity, but we still have work to do.” KAED, staffed by three persons which are all newly appointed, not only has created new programming as highlighted above, but has also enhanced traditional offerings such as the Kentucky Institute for Economic Development and KentuckyUnited, the Association’s domestic and international marketing platform. “What we do in our office affects every Kentucky community and every Kentucky family, and that keeps us motivated as we look forward to celebrating new investment and job creation from Hickman to Harlan. The Association remains diligent to seize upon the Commonwealth’s intrinsic and engineered advantages to optimize Kentucky’s global competitiveness,” said Tackett. “Kentucky is on the move.”

Like most Kentuckians, Matt Tackett knows struggles bring transformation and growth. He easily recalls how his father’s move from miner to teacher transformed his family and created opportunity for him. The firsthand experience of navigating challenges, planning and sacrificing forged Matt’s professional ambitions. This motivation became a desire to improve other Kentuckian’s lives through economic development.

That experience always has stayed with me and is one of the reasons I’ve wanted to be in public service and in economic development,” recalls Tackett. “I’ve always wanted to be in a position to positively improve Kentuckian’s lives, and I’m honored to have that now.”

Record investments and a reimagined workforce is creating global interest in Kentucky. KAED is leveraging the success and creating opportunities for businesses and families to grow. This passion and ambition is good for the Commonwealth.

To invest with KAED in 2019 you may visit:

The KAED Kentucky Economic Forum, the Association’s reimagined Fall Conference & Annual Meeting is set for November 7 – 9 in Covington. To attend you may visit:


Top Growth sectors

International growth