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This week, as we turn our focus to family, food and – for some – football, now is the ideal time to pause for a moment to recall all for which we are thankful.
At the state level, the good news is that some silver linings have begun to shine through after several especially tough years.
The 12 months between Sept. 2011 and 2012, for example, saw Kentucky add 47,000 jobs -- our highest year-to-year total since 2000. Only South Dakota had a larger percentage increase during the same 12-month period.
The foundation for this success has understandably drawn some positive press for the commonwealth. In March, a trade publication targeted at business leaders put us eighth among the states when measuring major industrial growth, and a month later, Governor Beshear announced we were also eighth nationally in the number of new start-up companies in 2011, indicating fertile ground for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Since 2007, according to USA Today, our personal income growth has far out-paced the national average by almost three-to-one. Only West Virginia has seen a steeper rise when compared to the surrounding states.
A recent CNBC report, meanwhile, said no state has lower costs for doing business, and we’re considered fourth-best when measuring cost of living.
All of this good news looks to continue, if the latest annual survey of manufacturers commissioned by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet is right. Earlier this month, it reported that 52 percent of the 184 companies questioned said they plan to hire more people in 2013. Combined, these companies have a workforce of 68,000 people.
Another bright spot for our future is the success we’re seeing in our schools. In January, “Education Week” moved us up to 14th in its annual “Quality Counts” report, which tracks key education efforts and outcomes. That’s 20 spots better than the year before.
Fourth graders are among the top 10 states in reading, while eighth graders are 12th. That older group has also beat the national average in science for more than a decade.
In high school, we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses, which provide college credit with a passing score. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of test takers grew from 14,000 to 26,000, and the percentage passing nearly doubled as well.
When taking a look at the holiday itself, we can be thankful that it was a native Kentuckian -- President Lincoln -- who declared that Thanksgiving should be on the fourth Thursday of November. Before, the date was not always locked in stone nationwide; here in Kentucky, in fact, the first official Thanksgiving was held on Sept. 26, 1844. Two years later, it was moved to late November.
Although many families eat at home, the Kentucky State Parks offers a true feast at its 17 resort park restaurants for those wanting something different. The cost is $18.49 for adults and $8.49 for children six to 12; younger children eat for free. The dining room will be open from noon until 8 p.m. on Thursday.
No matter where you may be, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that the upcoming holiday season is truly special. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about state government, please just let me know. You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. He may be reached by writing to Room 367, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601, or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 – TTY (800) 896-0305.