Kentucky fast becoming the new Michigan

When I was a kid growing up in Kentucky, all I thought about were horses. After all, how can you be a kid growing up on a farm in Kentucky and not love horses? Not only known for horses, Kentucky is also the land of bluegrass and Bourbon whiskey. Today, Kentucky is also known for its automotive industry.

While Toyota may be moving its U.S. headquarters to Texas, the manufacturing of some of its most popular vehicles is staying in the Bluegrass State. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) just announced the production of its 10-millionth vehicle, a 2014 Camry. In a ceremony at the TMMK plant, located in Georgetown, KY, the company and about 7,000 employees celebrated as the vehicle rolled off the assembly line. The first Camry was made at the plant in 1988, and that vehicle sat beside the 10-millionth vehicle at the celebration.

"Obviously, these two vehicles are worlds apart in many ways, but, at the same time, identical in others - particularly when it comes to craftsmanship and the care and love that went into their production," said Wil James, TMMK plant president.

In addition to the Camry, which has been the no. 1 selling car 15 out of the last 16 years, TMMK also manufactures the Camry Hybird, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza, as well as both four-cylinder and V-6 engines, said a release from Toyota. In 2015, the plant will become the first in the U.S. to make a Lexus vehicle - the ES350 - adding 50,000 vehicles to the plant's current production capacity of 500,000 vehicles annually.

Toyota isn't the only automaker to manufacture in the state. There are also Ford Motor plants, and don't forget General Motors' iconic Corvette factory in Bowling Green, which just announced a $131 million expansion. Where there is vehicle manufacturing there are also Tier one and two suppliers, and they come from around the globe: Akebono Brake Industry Co. Ltd; Hitachi, Johnson Controls Inc., Dana Holding Corp., Grupo Preza SA de CV, ZF Friedrichshafer AG, and more. The state estimates that in 2013 there were approximately 4,392 motor vehicle-related manufacturing businesses in Kentucky.

Kentucky currently ranks third in car production and second in light truck production, and third in U.S. automotive industry-related employment, behind #1 Michigan and #2 Ohio. According to statistics from the state, 11.2% of all cars and trucks manufactured in the U.S. were made in Kentucky in 2013 - a total of 1.2 million vehicles.

There are a number of plastics processors in Kentucky to serve the automotive, as well as other industries such as the appliance (white goods) industry and packaging. They are also expanding. [See the article on Wilbert Plastic Services in Lebanon, KY, that is expanding operations to meet a growing automotive in that region.]

I've owned horses in Kentucky, and I've owned a Corvette, and loved them equally. I guess you can say that Kentucky is the land of both horses and horsepower. Whatever it is, you can certainly say that it's also the land of opportunity for manufacturing.

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