Business “is a contact sport,” said Vivek Sarin, Interim Secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, during a speech to a gathering of local business and community leaders Monday in Corbin.
“You do not sit behind your desk and send out an email … and expect sales to happen,” he added.
An aggressive, highly personal approach to attracting business and industries to Kentucky has been his guiding philosophy since coming to state government from the private sector, Sarin told the group.
About 120 people were in attendance for the invitation-only Community and Business Forum, hosted by the Cabinet and the Corbin Economic Development Agency. The event was held at the Second and Main events center.
During his wide-ranging, 30-minute discussion, Sarin said Kentucky has had “several years of record performance” in regard to job creation and economic activity since Gov. Matt Bevin took office.
“He really had a vision for the state of Kentucky to get a lot more on offense in terms of economic development,” Sarin said.
He noted that the Cabinet has been transformed with the hiring of people who have never before worked in the public sector. Sarin himself is a lifelong entrepreneur, involved in commercial real estate and manufacturing.
“We have a team of people that really speak the language of business.”
Sarin discussed recent trips taken to European countries, Japan, China and other places to recruit industries to the state. He also talked about effectively using incentives to lure jobs to Kentucky.
Without exception, Sarin said Kentucky is best known for fried chicken, but said the state is “fun to sell” given its many advantages. He pointed out it’s the No. 2 producer of aerospace parts, is No. 1 (per capita) in productions of automobiles in the entire world, and is the logistics center of the nation — within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population, and home to three major logistics companies.
“It’s really cool to sell,” Sarin said.
During the meeting he also discussed moves that “vertically integrated” some aspects of the Cabinet that used to be outsourced back under its direct control to be more effective and manage costs. Another sizeable portion of his presentation was ways to entice younger generations to stay in the hometowns and work after college or trade school.
Sarin took questions at the end of the event.
Bruce Carpenter, Director of the Corbin Economic Development Agency, said Sarin’s visit represented an effort by Cabinet officials to get out into the state to hear from leaders in local communities about ways the state can better support existing industries and grow new ones.
“I think they are showing collaborative, innovative thinking when it comes to ways to create more jobs in Kentucky and to make the state’s economy more vibrant,” Carpenter said. “He talked about one thing that’s always been important to me — regional cooperation. I’m a big proponent that area governments and leaders can get much more done by working together.”
Sarin visited a newly constructed spec building in the Southeast Kentucky Regional Business Park, located off the Corbin Bypass, shortly after the forum. Later in the evening, he participated in a similar forum in London.