What’s Made in Kentucky?

What’s made in Kentucky? More than you might imagine! It’s highly likely that your car or truck, your soda, country ham, and ice cream, the playground equipment in the park, even your contact lenses, were made in the more than 4,500 manufacturing-related facilities in Kentucky.

The automobile industry is the largest employer in Kentucky manufacturing. You may not realize, however, that the aerospace industry is Kentucky’s top exporter and is growing each year.

How many Kentuckians work in manufacturing? Over a quarter million! Here’s a breakdown by major industry:

Automobile and Related Industries Employment: 95,000

They’re sleek, shiny, and engineered for safety and performance. The Ford pickup truck, Toyota Camry, and Corvette are made right here in the commonwealth. Numerous factories supply parts from fasteners and cables to trim, seats, airbag inflators, and brakes.


Food and Beverages Employment: 50,000

Delicious! Everything you need to make a meal is created in Kentucky, from Clifty Farm country hams to Jif peanut butter. How about a snack like Mingua beef jerky? Quench your thirst with Ale-8-One or Highbridge Springs water. Don’t forget sweet treats like Dippin’ Dots and Mom Blakeman’s pull candy.


Plastics and Rubber Employment: 28,000.

Kentucky has 225 plastics and rubber manufacturers, creating  all types of products, such as auto parts, containers, playground equipment, and medical supplies. Scrap is recycled into plastic pellets used again in new products.


Aluminum Employment: 20,000.

Whether it’s the Reynolds aluminum foil you have in your kitchen or the aluminum that goes into Ford trucks,  it’s made in Kentucky. The state ranked No. 1 in aluminum jobs per capita in 2018.


Aerospace Employment: 18,000.

From outer space to the drone hobbyist, Kentucky’s aerospace industry has made its mark. Kentuckians make jet engines, jet brakes, and satellites. Space Tango has labs on the International Space Station, and Rajant is developing a communication system for drones and satellites.

Chemicals Employment: 15,000.

From the laboratory to the factory come all sorts of goods that make modern life easier and safer.  Kentuckians make paints, pharmaceuticals, inks, fertilizers, hand sanitizers, and more.


Steel and Iron Employment: 7,000.

If you’re thinking of steel mills, you’ve got a good start. Kentucky has steel mills, yes, but also iron foundries and manufacturers of wire, tubing, sheets, fencing, and farm gates, and auto parts like brake discs.


Figures from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, February 2019.

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