Economy

Answers in Genesis

A planned amusement park in northern Kentucky featuring Noah’s Ark is not eligible for $18 million in state tourism tax benefits.

The Herald-Leader reports Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary sent the group Answers in Genesis a letter saying the commonwealth could not issue such tax benefits for projects with discriminatory hiring practices.

Answers in Genesis is the Christian group behind the Creation Museum, which seeks to explain the origins of the earth through the teachings of the bible. The group’s next project has been dubbed the Ark Park, and will feature a giant ship based on the story of Noah and the great flood.

But questions over whether the state should allow the park tourism tax benefits arose when Answers In Genesis refused to commit to not discriminating based on religion in the hiring process for park employees.

In his letter to a lawyer for Answers in Genesis, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart wrote “it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives.”

Officials with Answers In Genesis were not immediately available for comment following news of the state's decision.

The November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the U.S. job market continues to improve at a steady pace.

Here are the two big numbers from Friday's report:

Haslam Questions High Jobless Rate in Tennessee

Oct 7, 2014

Republican Governor Bill Haslam is questioning why Tennessee's unemployment rate remains well above the national level.

The most recent national unemployment rate released Friday was 5.9 percent -- the lowest level since July 2008, in the middle of the Great Recession. Meanwhile, Tennessee's jobless rate was 7.4 percent in August.

Haslam says Tennessee is among the top states adding new jobs and that the state is not adding a large number of new claims for unemployment benefits. That's why the governor says "it's a little hard to understand" why Tennessee has been unable to whittle away at the unemployment rate.

Haslam says he has asked some economists to look into the statistics to see if they can find an explanation for Tennessee's high unemployment rate.

The White House

President Barack Obama's visit to southwestern Indiana will include a stop at a minority-owned steel processor for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.

The Evansville Courier & Press reports Obama will visit Millennium Steel Service LLC to mark Manufacturing Day on Friday. It says there's no time listed in a notification sent by the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Millennium Steel is located adjacent to the Toyota plant south of Princeton.

Millennium Steel was founded in 2001 as a joint venture between Henry Jackson and Toyota. The company's website says revenue grew from $37 million in 2001 to $250 million in 2011. Black Enterprise Magazine rates the company one of the 100 Top Black Owned Businesses.

The company started with 10 employees. Gibson County officials say it now has 58.

New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Kentucky ranks 40th in the nation for child poverty.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey says 25.3 percent of Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2013, which is a little more than three percent higher than the national average.

The latest Census Bureau figures also include child poverty rates for Kentucky counties with populations of over 65,000 people:

  • Boone County   12.5%
  • Bullitt County     13.8%
  • Campbell County  24.8%
  • Christian County  15.0%
  • Daviess County  20.9%
  • Fayette County  23.2%
  • Hardin County   20.7%
  • Jefferson County  22.4%
  • Kenton County  22.4%
  • McCracken County  31.9%
  • Madison County  21.3%
  • Pike County  25.7%
  • Warren County  22.5%

Kentucky Youth Advocates director Terry Brooks says anything that can be done to alleviate the number of economically distressed young people will pay off down the road.

Kentucky Nears Full Job Recovery from Recession

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Creative Commons

A state economist says Kentucky is on pace in the coming months to fully regain all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

Economist Monoj Shanker said Thursday that Kentucky has regained 96 percent of the 122,100 jobs that were shed as a result of the deep economic downturn, and that a full pre-recession recovery is expected by year's end.

Shanker says nonfarm employment in Kentucky totaled 1,865,800 in August, up by 24,000 positions from a year ago. Last month's total is 4,800 jobs away from reaching the state's peak employment in January 2008 before job losses began mounting during the recession.

The state says last month's jobless rate in Kentucky dropped to 7.1 percent, down 1.3 percent from a year ago.

Kentucky's unemployment rate remains above the national rate.

Report Shows Kentucky Workers Still Struggling

Aug 29, 2014
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new report on the state of Kentucky workers suggests the state’s economy has a ways to go before it fully recovers from the 2008 recession.

But some relief has come as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

As we enter Labor Day Weekend in Kentucky, most workers will take a day off from a job whose wages have stagnated.

That’s one takeaway from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s annual report, “The State of Working Kentucky 2014.”

Emil Moffatt

A new report shows tourism related to Mammoth Cave National Park is responsible for $40 million in economic benefit to the region.

The analysis conducted by a group of economists with the U.S. Geological Survey measured the impact of tourism dollars spent by park visitors in 2013. According to the report, 494,541 visitors came to Mammoth Cave National Park last year, with tourism dollars supporting 567 jobs in the region.

Mammoth Cave acting superintendent Lizzie Watts told WKU Public Radio the nearly half-a-million visitors who came to the south-central Kentucky attraction did more than just spend money. She says they also walked away with an enhanced respect for the region that they take back with them to their communities across the U.S. and globe.

“The environment of Mammoth Cave is one of the most unique in the whole world. So just the experience of walking in the cave for many people, it’s the one time--and maybe the only time—they get that experience. And they can take that all over the world and say ‘yes, I was in the largest cave system in the whole world.’”

Watts says Mammoth Cave is seeing an increase in the number of visitors interested in boating along the Green River, as well as those using the eight-mile Big Hollow Trail, which was opened in December to mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.

“The park itself is really a mecca for recreation above the ground, in many ways, both biking and hiking, and boating and canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding.”

Overall, the new report says the 273.6 million visitors to National Park Service attractions in 2013 spent  $14.6 billion in areas within 60 miles of a park.

Commonwealth of Kentucky

Kentucky is facing a $91 million budget shortfall, and one of the driving factors is a decline in a form of income primarily used by the nation’s wealthiest individuals.

In 2012, the U.S. Congress was preparing to take the country over the “fiscal cliff” over rising debt, rising healthcare costs, and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To reduce the deficit, President Obama proposed raising the federal capital gains tax, which largely impacted the nation's wealthiest, prompting a massive sell-off by 2013.

As a result, state budget forecasters anticipated a repeat of such revenue on what was essentially a one-time occurrence.

“All states knew of this change, and they made adjustments in their revenue estimates, but it was a much larger impact nationwide than states planned for,” said Kentucky State Budget Director Jane Driskell.

Driskell says there is no need for a special legislative session to address the shortfall. Governor Beshear could issue a budget reduction order to balance the state’s coffers.

Abbey Oldham

A coalition of business, political, and refugee-rights groups in south-central Kentucky is calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.  

As part of a so-called national “Day of Action”, representatives from various backgrounds spoke Wednesday in Bowling Green about the need for Congressional  leaders and the Obama Administration to get reform passed this year.

Barren County dairy farmer H.H. Barlow, a presidential appointee to the U.S. Board for International Food and Agriculture Development, said many Americans don’t understand the impact immigrant labor has on sectors such as the agriculture industry.

“I hate the word ‘criminals’, or ‘illegal aliens’—I don’t like that term. They’re workers. They’re performing an essential service to our country,” Barlow said.

The Barren County farmer said he speaks to his elected representatives about the need for immigration reform each time he sees them. Barlow believes that reform will not only benefit immigrants, but also the U.S. economy.

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