Gov. Beshear: ‘State of the Commonwealth is Strong Because Kentuckians are Strong’


KENTUCKY (WEHT) – Governor Andy Beshear gave his third State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday, noting this year’s speech feels both the toughest – as the state faced the most deadly tornado outbreak, numerous natural disasters and a worldwide pandemic – and the most exciting, because of the state’s record-breaking job growth and economic investments.

The Governor said, even through these losses and the pain we carry from them, the state of our commonwealth is strong and Kentucky is ready to move forward as a leader in the post-COVID economy.

“Our commonwealth is strong because we are strong,” Gov. Beshear said. “In Kentucky, we are good people, tough people, resilient people. We care deeply for one another. And while they may knock us down, no tornado, no pandemic, no flood, no ice storm can break us. Because we do not break.”

The Governor said record economic growth, tens of thousands of new good-paying jobs and numerous major companies betting their futures on Kentucky and our workforce prove that “our time is here and our future is now.” Kentucky is no longer a “flyover state,” but rather a destination. The Governor urged lawmakers to set partisanship aside and spend the session moving the state forward by investing in our people and communities so we can continue our momentum and turn two years of great progress into 20 years of real prosperity.

In his speech, Gov. Beshear first addressed the most recent challenges and tragedies affecting Kentucky families. He noted last year was bookended by natural disasters: devastating ice storms and historic flooding in January and February, and the deadly tornado in December, which was also followed by more destructive storms New Year’s Day.

The Governor discussed visiting impacted communities, including Ashland, Beattyville, Nicholas County and other counties, as well as communities shaken by the deadly tornadoes, including Mayfield, Bremen, Dawson Springs and Taylor County.

The Governor highlighted the strength and heroism of Kentuckians in stories he shared about the tragic night the tornadoes struck Western Kentucky. He introduced and thanked Nevin Price, a farmer in Taylor County, who pulled multiple neighbors from the basements of their collapsed homes, clearing away enough debris to pull them out. The Governor also thanked Jeremy Creason, chief of the fire department in Mayfield, who was among the first on the scene after a tornado leveled the candle factory with dozens of workers inside.

One of the hardest hit places Gov. Beshear toured was his father’s hometown of Dawson Springs. Seventeen people from the small town were killed.

“My faith teaches me that while we struggle to understand the whys of human suffering, we can see God’s presence in the response,” the Governor said. “And Scripture tells us: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.’”

The strength of Kentuckians also stood out through donations to help with the recovery. The Governor thanked those who donated money, time, food, shoes and blood, as well as those who gave toys to First Lady Britainy Beshear’s Christmas toy drive.

Gov. Beshear introduced Kara McKnight, who was in attendance with her parents, Ashley and Jason, and her brother, Jett. The First Family met Kara at a Christmas celebration at Pennyrile State Park. She had had a tough month, losing her older brother around Thanksgiving and her house in the tornado. The Governor and his daughter, Lila, filled Kara’s arms with games and toys.

“And then she began to laugh,” Gov. Beshear said, “an amazing, special laugh I will always remember: A laugh that reminded me that even in the darkness, there is wonderful, pure, joyful light.”

Assessing the state of our commonwealth also requires addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Beshear said. We have now lost more than 12,000 of our fellow Kentuckians to the virus.

“We’ve built the most robust testing and vaccination networks in human history. It was called the greatest logistics challenge since World War II, and we got it done,” Gov. Beshear said. “Over 62 percent of every man, woman and child in the commonwealth have been vaccinated – something that has never been done before.”

The Governor noted growth in emerging industries like agritech, with AppHarvest announcing expansions in Morehead, Somerset, Berea and Richmond, in addition to the company’s 2.7 million-square-foot flagship facility. AppleAtcha launched last summer and is expected to create 2,000 full-time jobs in Inez, in addition to seasonal jobs. Fresh Harvest continues to grow in Stanford, and Enviroflight is thriving in Maysville.

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