Demographics, politics could affect Kentucky’s jobs outlook

November 8, 2015

The creation of more jobs that pay well enough to support a middle-class family was an issue in last week’s election, and it will be a bigger issue in next year’s elections. So it begs the question: what are Kentucky’s job prospects?

The past year has been better than some campaign rhetoric would lead you to believe. Kentucky’s unemployment rate has fallen to the national rate of 5 percent, its best showing since June 2001.

Average weekly earnings have shown strong growth over the past six months — twice the growth rate of a year ago, and more than the national growth rate. The state has regained the 96,000 jobs lost during the recession and added a few more.

The biggest gains in the past year have been in education and health services, which added 7,600 jobs. It will be interesting to see if Governor-elect Matt Bevin’s dislike for the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and Kynect, which provided health insurance for 400,000 Kentuckians, results in a hiring slowdown or job losses.

Kentucky manufacturing has rebounded, creating 6,500 jobs in the past year. That includes the new Lexus line at Toyota’s assembly plant in Georgetown.

Another growth area has been the hospitality, food service and arts sector, which added 5,600 jobs. Financial services created 3,800 jobs, while all levels of government added 3,700. Professional and business services added 2,300 jobs. Construction added 1,800 jobs — the same number mining and logging lost over the past year.

But there is one big caution for the future: Kentucky’s labor force is declining, mostly because of demographics. This state has a larger proportion of retirement-age people than the national average.

Ron Crouch, who crunches numbers for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and is a leading authority on Kentucky demographics, has been warning of this trend for years. He noted that while the working-age population (ages 20 to 64) grew by 18,000 from 2010 to 2014, the 65-and-older population grew four-times faster, to 76,000.

Assuming this trend continues, Kentucky must make sure its working-age population has the education, skills and good health to fill not only the jobs being vacated by Baby Boomers but new ones that must be created for economic growth. That means we can’t afford to have so many working-age Kentuckians “lost” to idleness and disability.

This is especially important because two sectors that for generations provided good-paying jobs to under-educated Kentuckians — coal mining and low-skill manufacturing — are mostly gone and won’t be coming back.

The North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s sent a lot of low-skilled manufacturing jobs overseas and left many Kentucky towns with idle factories. The state’s manufacturing sector is now more high-tech, with large segments in the aerospace and automotive industries, and that requires more skilled workers.

Several uncertainties could affect the growth of manufacturing, from rising energy costs to the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, whose details are just now becoming public.

If Bevin and Republicans are successful in passing “right to work” laws — or, as union workers call them, “right to work for less” laws — wage growth could be hurt. Business groups say those laws make states more attractive to businesses that create jobs, but the result is lower average wages.

Kentucky politicians of both parties crow about being “friends” of coal, but the reality is the coal industry will never be very job-friendly again.

State officials reported last week that coal employment has dropped by half since 2011 — from 18,812 jobs to 9,356. But what people forget is that, since it peaked in 1981 at about 48,000 workers, the number of mining jobs has been in steady decline, mostly because of mechanization.

While some job losses in coal have come because of environmental concerns and regulations, the biggest factor by far has been cheap natural gas. Also, Eastern Kentucky’s coal reserves are dwindling, making it more costly to mine and less competitive with coal from other regions.

For Kentucky to prosper in the 21st century, leaders must be aggressive about exploring new economic opportunities rather than protecting dying industries. And they must help create a work force that is better-educated, better-trained, healthier and better-paid than it has been.

As you listen to politicians propose new policies, ask yourself which ones will make it easier to accomplish those goals and which ones will make it harder.

Interesting tidbits buried in annual Kentucky economic report

March 22, 2015

When the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business publishes its annual Kentucky Economic Report, most people just pay attention to the front of the book, which predicts whether the state’s economy will rise or fall, and by how much.

But I think the rest of the book is more interesting. It is filled with great bits of information that not only tell us about the economy, but offer some clues about the state of Kentucky society, too.

Here are a few gleanings from the 2015 report, published last month by Christopher Bollinger, director of the college’s Center for Business and Economic Research:

CBER■ Kentucky’s landscape may be mostly rural, but its economy is all about cities. The “golden triangle” bounded by Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati contains half the state’s population, 59 percent of the jobs and 54 percent of the businesses.

■ Wages in metro counties in 2012, the most recent figures available, were 29 percent higher than in “mostly rural” counties and 20 percent higher than in “somewhat rural” counties.

■ How can rural counties improve wage rates? The report offers advice from Mark Drabenstott, director of the Center for the Study of Rural America: encourage home-grown entrepreneurs, “think and act regionally” and find a new economic niche in high-value, knowledge-based industries that leverage the region’s strengths.

■ If you feel like you haven’t had a raise in years, you are probably right. Kentucky’s average weekly wage, when adjusted for inflation, is about the same as it was in the first quarter of 2007.

■ Kentucky’s poor and lower middle-classes have gotten 4.4 percent poorer since the late 1970s, while the state’s middle class has lost 7.5 percent in inflation-adjusted household income. Upper middle-class Kentuckians have seen household income rise 7.7 percent, while the richest 10 percent have seen a rise 16.7 percent. All segments of Kentuckians did much worse than their peers nationally.

■ Kentucky’s earned income per-capita relative to the national average increased steadily from 1960 to 1977 and peaked at 80 percent. But it has fallen since 1977 and is now at 75.4 percent, ranking Kentucky 46th among the states.

■ Lexington and Louisville have seen steady employment gains since 2010 or early 2011 and have returned to or exceeded their pre-recession highs.

■ The disappearance of family farms isn’t news, but the report has some interesting statistics. Kentucky has roughly one-third the number of farms it had in 1950 and the average farm size has doubled. Kentucky lost 8,196 farms during the 2007-2012 recession, the largest decrease of any state. Most of that decline was likely farms going “idle” rather than being developed, the report said.

■ There has been a marked increase in value-added farm products such as jams, salsa, wine and jerky. The production of value-added foods, adjusted for inflation, has risen from $3.34 billion in 1993 to $5.1 billion in 2011.

■ While tobacco has declined sharply, the value of the state’s other major crops — corn, soybeans, hay and wheat — has improved considerably. The most dramatic growth has been in poultry. Broilers (chickens raised for food) are now Kentucky’s most-valuable farm commodity; chicken eggs are 10th and farm chickens are 12th.

■ What Kentucky industry sector has lost the most jobs in the past 25 years? If you guessed coal, you’re wrong. Kentucky in 2013 had 45,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than it did in 1990, a 16 percent decline. The sector that gained the most jobs was educational and health services: 103,700 more people work in those areas, a 67 percent increase.

■ There were 364,000 more Kentuckians employed in 2013 than in 1990, a 25 percent increase, beating the population increase of 19 percent. About 95,400 Kentuckians work for companies that are majority foreign owned.

■ In various measures of “community strength,” Kentucky is on par or better than the national average. Crime rates are lower. Kentuckians tend to trust their neighbors more. They report higher levels of “emotional support and life satisfaction.” But they give less to charity and volunteer less than the national average.

There’s more good stuff in the 2015 Kentucky Annual Economic Report. To download a full copy, click this link.

Economists recommend directions for tax reform

January 14, 2010

FRANKFORT — This is the time each year when Kentucky lawmakers usually engage in their own version of insanity: doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

The situation has gotten so crazy, though, that this year could be different.

Kentucky’s tax system has been out of sync with the economy for more than a decade, creating ever-larger deficits despite frequent budget-cutting and quick-fix tax increases.

The General Assembly is finally considering comprehensive tax reform, and lawmakers got some good advice Wednesday at a standing-room-only symposium organized by the University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy and State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach.

In presentations by six economists and other experts, it quickly became clear that the tax system’s inability to reliably provide enough revenue to meet Kentucky’s needs isn’t the only problem.

Compared with surrounding states, most of the economists agreed, Kentucky taxes property and the sales of goods and services too little and taxes income too much. That hurts economic growth because it puts Kentucky at a competitive disadvantage for attracting human capital and the businesses that employ it.

“We are discouraging younger, more-educated workers from moving to the state,” said UK economist Kenneth Troske.

Kentucky’s low property taxes are a legacy of rural heritage, political pressure from property owners and 1979 legislation that capped property tax increases at 4 percent a year, even though property values have often risen much more than that.

“We have a great tax code for a manufacturing economy and an agrarian economy and a poor tax code for a knowledge economy,” said Joseph Reagan, president of Greater Louisville Inc.

Kentucky’s 6 percent sales tax applies to goods but few services.

“The fastest growing part of the economy is services, and you’re not taxing them,” said William Fox, a University of Tennessee economist who first outlined the problem in a report to the General Assembly in 2002.

In addition, there are many special-interest tax breaks, but little analysis of whether they give Kentucky overall economic benefits.

Those factors create a narrower tax base and result in higher tax rates. A better system would be just the opposite: a broader base with lower rates.

Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington, has proposed broadening the sales tax to cover services and closing loopholes so the 6 percent tax rate could be lowered and the individual and corporate income taxes could be eliminated.

Farmer said states without income taxes have shown more economic growth. But critics of consumption-based tax systems say they can be unfair to low-income people.

UK economist James Ziliak said that could be offset if Kentucky joined 23 other states in creating an earned-income tax credit. He recommended one modeled after the 35-year-old federal credit, which has been widely praised as a cheap and effective way to ease poverty.

Kentucky’s economy is actually a collection of at least six very different regional economies, many tied to cities in other states and all with their own special needs and issues, Troske said.

A highly centralized, one-size-fits-all state tax system doesn’t fit any region well.

A lot of tax revenues from cities go to support rural areas. But the rural-dominated General Assembly has given cities few ways besides payroll taxes to raise revenues to meet their special needs and compete for economic growth with similar-size cities in other states.

“This has hurt our local governments’ abilities to collect revenue and made us more reliant on the state,” said University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes.

Coomes said local-option sales taxes are common in neighboring states, and he noted that taxpayers are often more willing to pay taxes when they can see tangible local benefits from them.

David Adkisson, president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said that while the tax code needs improvement, the state also needs to spend money more wisely. In particular, he said, huge recent increases in state spending for employee benefits, prisons and Medicaid need to be curbed.

Kentucky needs tax and spending reform now, both to solve the potential $1.5 billion shortfall over the next two years and to create a brighter future for this historically poor state.

Ignoring the problems any longer would simply be insane.

Human resources are Kentucky’s future

October 18, 2009

I’ve always found it ironic that Kentucky was considered more innovative and successful in the early 1800s, when it was on the edge of the American frontier, than during the past century, when it was at the geographic center of a booming nation.

Maybe success isn’t so much about where you are physically as where you are mentally.

The Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center’s annual conference in Louisville on Thursday looked at the usual problems that vex this state: health, education and economic development.

But much of the discussion focused on new ways of thinking about and tackling those problems.

Doug Henton, a Versailles-born author and consultant who heads a California company called Collaborative Economics, said Kentucky’s economic future could be much different than its past.

Natural resources, such as rivers and mineral wealth, will be less important in the future. What will be much more important is how human resources are developed.

Globalization of the economy is changing the importance of place and the strategies that states must use to create economic success.

Economic development strategies that focus on tax breaks, cheap labor and low-cost energy will no longer work. That’s because industries that depend on those things have either moved work offshore or eventually will.

What will be important is “quality of life” — creating a place where the best and brightest people want to live and the most innovative companies want to set up shop.

That makes a clean environment important, as well as smart land use and growth strategies, good urban planning and good transportation systems.

The most successful businesses now tend to be small- and medium-size companies that embrace change and are good at networking. Because collaboration is important, companies tend to cluster in areas where ideas can feed off one another.

Local and state governments are often either too little or too big to effectively address issues that will be important in the future, such as growth strategies and transportation, Henton said.

Breaking down old political barriers and promoting regional collaboration will become essential.

Northern Kentucky has had some success with regional cooperation, as has the Louisville area since metro consolidation. Central Kentucky? Not so much.

From his work around the country, Henton said, he has observed that the most successful regional initiatives are bottom-up and collaborative. They are ones in which leaders from government, business, universities, non-profits and citizen groups work together across traditional political boundaries.

“Focus on people and relationships, and not organizations and structures,” Henton said. “It’s about group creativity and regional stewardship, and the regions around the country where this happens seem to have more vibrant economies.”

The basic foundation for any region’s success in the future will be a well-educated population that is able to seize economic opportunities.

“We need well-rounded people who are creative as well as having the basic skills,” he said.

Kentuckians must become more comfortable with change, and more innovative in how they deal with it. One good example is in the way Kentuckians approach energy and the environment.

Peter Meyer, an environmental expert and University of Louisville professor, said climate change is real, and further worldwide restrictions on the burning of coal are inevitable, whether we like it or not.

But while Kentucky faces many challenges, it also has some opportunities.

Kentucky state government is doing good work in improving energy efficiency, especially with the construction of new public schools. The state’s first “net zero” energy use school building will open in Bowling Green next fall.

But state government could be doing more to promote those projects as examples, he said.

Rather than pledging $300 million in state funds for a coal-liquefaction demonstration project, Kentucky officials should put that money toward conservation efforts.

Home electricity consumption is 24 percent above the national average, which means we have a lot of opportunities to do better.

But it will involve a mental shift from Kentucky’s devotion to coal — and to doing things the way they’ve always been done.

“We need to become risk-takers in this environment,” Meyer said.

How to balance business and government?

December 9, 2008

It looks as if Detroit may get its bailout after all.

If a reluctant Congress approves, the Big Three automakers could get $15 billion in short-term loans, following in the footsteps of banks and brokerages that are receiving $700 billion in public assistance.

Like many taxpayers, I’m angry at having to come to the rescue of greedy and incompetent corporate executives, but they seem to have us over a barrel.

Without the Wall Street bailout, the credit squeeze might have cost even more Kentuckians their jobs and savings and left the state with an even bigger budget deficit. A Detroit meltdown could wash away thousands more Kentucky jobs, from the Corvette plant in Bowling Green to the Ford plants in Louisville and dozens of parts suppliers across the state.

How did we get into this mess? Corporate greed and incompetence, for sure, as well as some irresponsible consumers. But I keep thinking that we could have avoided this crisis if government had been doing its job for the past eight years — if not the past quarter-century.

While we’re fixing the economy, it would be useful to have some sober discussions about the proper relationship between business and government. For decades, some politicians and big-money special interests have reduced that discussion to simplistic sound-bites: Business good. Big business better. Government bad. Government regulation very bad.

Government doesn’t create wealth, business does. Capitalism is the world’s best economic system because of human creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, enlightened self-interest and the nimbleness of business people to respond to the market’s needs.

But for capitalism to succeed over the long haul, it needs a fair and healthy marketplace where government sets some boundaries and enforces rules. Business people are the first to say that their job is to make a profit for their owners, not watch out for society’s best interests. That’s government’s job.

The Wall Street meltdown can be traced to greed and abuse made possible by deregulation and lack of government oversight. And if government had pushed harder for tough fuel economy standards — or helped fund innovation the way Japan has done with its automakers — the Big Three and the rest of us would be in a lot better shape now.

Honestly, I’m almost as concerned about government “oversight” of the auto industry as I am about government’s apparent lack of oversight of the financial services industry, which is getting nearly 50 times more money with few strings attached.

Government isn’t suited to running a business; it’s too bureaucratic and political. Of course, some would say the same about big corporations, especially public corporations more focused on short-term gain than long-term sustainability. Anyone who has ever worked for a big corporation knows why the comic strip Dilbert is so popular.

Some government regulation is essential; otherwise, our air and water would look like China’s and investors would have even less confidence in the safety of our financial system than they do now. But examples of overregulation are easy to find. Just ask any health care professional who deals with the well-meaning but nightmarish federal privacy law known as HIPAA.

As the nation feels its way toward a new relationship between government and business, a good subject to consider is health care.

Unlike in most industrialized nations, our health care system is left largely in private hands. Health care costs have traditionally been borne by business, although, as those costs have risen dramatically, companies have shifted more of them to workers.

The United States spends 16.5 percent of gross domestic product on health care — much more than any other nation — and that figure rises every year. Yet we have an inefficient system where an estimated 47 million people are uninsured and many families are just one serious illness away from financial ruin.

Why should businesses bear that burden? If government took more responsibility for managing health care with private providers, many people think both quality and coverage could be improved. Freed from those benefits burdens, companies could be more competitive globally. Plus, think of the entrepreneurial potential that could be unleashed if so many workers weren’t tied to jobs they hate by fear of losing health care benefits.

Of course, any attempt at change will be vigorously opposed by the health care industrial complex, which profits from the current system’s inefficiency. It will raise fears about “socialized medicine,” even though public-private systems such as Medicare, while hardly perfect, have worked well for decades.

Like many Americans, I’m uncomfortable with government trying to manage big business. But if government would use this opportunity to learn how to do a better job of governing, we might be spared more corporate bailouts in the future.

The middle class squeeze is nothing new

December 2, 2008

Well, the economists finally made it official this week: We’re in a recession. And, guess what? They said it began a year ago.

If you’re like the three-fourths of Americans who consider themselves to be “middle class,” this probably didn’t come as a surprise. Many people feel as if they’ve been losing economic ground for years. That’s because many of them have been.

America has been a generally prosperous nation since World War II, achieving the highest overall standard of living in the planet’s history. The reasons are many, including advances in technology and global economic trends that have made goods cheap and available. Americans have been innovative, entrepreneurial and they have worked hard. At times, the nation has made significant public investments in physical infrastructure, such as highways, and social infrastructure, such as schools.

But the pain being felt in this recession has brought new attention to a trend economists have been watching for years: The rich really are getting richer, the poor really are getting poorer and the middle class has been shrinking steadily since the late 1970s.

It’s a reality that government policy-makers and business leaders must deal with as they try to pull us out of this mess. The issue could be especially important for Kentuckians, who lag their fellow Americans in just about every measure of economic well-being.

At the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center‘s annual conference Nov. 20 in Covington, there was an interesting panel discussion about the shrinking middle class and what it means for Kentucky. The news, as you might expect, wasn’t good.

“I see, basically, that middle class dissolving,” said Ron Crouch, a sociologist who has headed the Kentucky State Data Center at the Universtiy of Louisville since 1988. “The issue is it probably takes two incomes to make it in today’s society.”

Middle class is hard to define, but a basic measure is income. A year ago, a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported big disparities in the growth of after-tax household income between 1979 and 2005, as measured in 2005 dollars.

The study found that the poorest 20 percent of American households saw their annual income rise by an average of $900 over that quarter-century. The second-poorest 20 percent, by $4,800. The middle 20 percent, by $8,700.

Things were much different on the high end. The upper-middle 20 percent of households saw annual income increase by $16,000. And the richest fifth, by $76,500. Among the wealthiest 1 percent of households, average annual after-tax income rose by $745,100, from $326,400 to $1,071,500.

Panelist Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Kentucky ranks sixth-highest nationally in the disparity between its richest and poorest citizens and 13th in the disparity between middle- and upper-income people.

Most people define middle class more broadly than just income; it’s more about a feeling of security, Brooks said. Do I feel secure in my job, my home, my health, my retirement and my assets’ ability to weather a setback?

For example, if every member of a family doesn’t have health insurance, “you’re just one bad illness away from risk,” Brooks said.

That could help explain why the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization reported this year that 25 percent of Americans felt they hadn’t moved forward economically in the past five years, and 31 percent felt they had fallen back. It was the worst result in a half-century of polling on that question. Attitudes are important, because confident consumers spend more, and consumer spending is two-thirds of all economic activity.

Being middle class is an idea Americans hold dear, which is why many people think of themselves as middle class when, in reality, they are either wealthy or poor. It’s especially true for baby boomers, who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, when most Americans really were middle class.

Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Princeton University professor who recently won the Nobel Prize for economics, has written that, far from being the norm, a majority middle-class America was a relatively brief condition that existed between the 1930s and about 1980.

Over the next few months, we’ll hear politicians and ideological warriors debate how to fix the economy and what role government should play in that. My guess is we’ll hear less than in the recent past about making government smaller, privatizing Social Security and cutting taxes for the rich. After all, some of the pillars of capitalism are lining up for billions in taxpayer bailouts.

The huge post-World War II American middle class was created, in part, though public investment such as the GI Bill, better public schools, affordable home mortgages, good highways, Social Security and Medicare.

Growing the middle class and returning the economy to health again will require more public investment. And it will mean creating smart policies to address demographic trends such as an aging population and inequities among growing minority populations.

A strong middle class is central to America’s self-image, but the way to keeping it strong is hotly debated. Crouch breaks it down into two basic philosophies, which he describes as the John Wayne view and the Little House on the Prairie view. One symbolizes rugged individualism; the other, the idea of “take care of yourself, take care of your family, but also watch out for your neighbor.”

“We’ve got to get off this idea that John Wayne is who we are in America,” Crouch said. “Basically, we’re a country which was built on people helping each other. This society cannot afford to have winners and losers. We’ve got to make everyone a winner.”

Kentucky vision: Education, innovation, branding

November 11, 2008

Kentucky’s potential for success in a global economy might not be obvious to people who have lived here all of their lives.

Pearse Lyons, an Irishman who heads the animal nutrition company Alltech, says he sees it. And he is convinced it can be achieved if Kentucky invests in education, focuses on scientific innovation and markets its brand.

Lyons is barnstorming the state this week to deliver that message in a series of public lectures. He began Monday in Glasgow, then drove to Murray and Owensboro. He plans to make six more speeches around the state Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dr. Pearse Lyons

Dr. Pearse Lyons

Lyons, who started Alltech in Jessamine County 28 years ago, said Kentucky has some of the same advantages that helped launch Ireland’s economy in the 1980s. Both places have about 4 million residents, and their governments and universities are small enough to be accessible.

Lyons thinks Kentucky needs more public-private partnerships to invest in education and innovation. He hopes other companies will join Alltech in funding Margin of Excellence scholarships at the universities of Kentucky and Louisville to attract and retain the bright minds who will create tomorrow’s technology.

Earning a Ph.D. degree often requires a student to study for five years while living on a $20,000 annual university stipend. After graduation, first jobs don’t pay much.

“Who in their right mind would do that?” Lyons asked during a telephone interview on the road between Glasgow and Murray. “Why does Ph.D. have to stand for Poor, Hungry and Driven?”

The Margin of Excellence scholarship provides a $40,000 annual stipend on top of the university money for up to five years, plus an additional $10,000 for published research and another $10,000 if the student stays in Kentucky for three years after graduation.

“We’ve stepped up and done the first one,” which went to UK animal nutrition student Anne Koontz, Lyons said. “We’ve got a couple of people to step up and do the second and third. What we need is like-minded business people and businesses to step up and say, ‘Let’s create the single best Ph.D. program in the world.'”

Lyons, whose company operates in 113 countries, said such scholarships could be an inexpensive way for companies to do critical research. “You couldn’t hire a technician for $40,000 a year,” he said. “And here you’re going to get the brightest and the smartest focusing on your problem. It’s a no-brainer.”

Technology could allow Kentucky to keep building on traditional strengths, such as agriculture and energy. For example, the horse industry could fund a Ph.D. student interested in figuring out how to capture methane from manure. Coal companies could fund students to study ways to create clean-coal technology by capturing carbon dioxide.

Despite the economic slump, Lyons thinks this is a good time for companies to invest in the future. For example, he said, Alltech has secured government grants to help build a bio-refinery in Springfield that will create energy from renewable cellulose, such as corn cobs, switch grass and kudzu.

“Let’s focus on the problems of Kentucky,” he said. “Let’s focus on making those problems opportunities.”

Good marketing is vital, he said, for a state as well as a company. Lyons thinks Alltech’s sponsorship of the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games will be good for marketing his company — and Kentucky. “It’s an incredible opportunity to show Kentucky to the world,” he said.

In some ways, Kentucky has a better image abroad than it does in the United States, thanks to such exports as Thoroughbred horses, bourbon whiskey, bluegrass music and what Lyons calls the “super brands” of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Muhammad Ali.

Good marketing sometimes just means taking advantage of small opportunities. Last Friday night, Lyons was back in Dublin for a black-tie dinner to receive the Foundation Day Medal from his alma mater, University College Dublin. But he didn’t go home alone.

That same evening, Alltech sponsored a recital at the Royal Irish Academy of Music by Everett McCorvey and Tedrin Blair Lindsay of UK Opera Theater, along with four UK students who have won the school’s Alltech-sponsored vocal competition.

After the recital, McCorvey said, he secretly arranged to hurry over to Lyons’ event so he could close the dinner by performing a special arrangement of My Old Kentucky Home with University College’s Choral Scholars.

After the performance, Lyons said, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

And it exposed 600 influential people in Ireland to a brand: Kentucky.

Lyons’ lectures

Northern Kentucky University, 7:30 a.m.
Student Union, Room 104, Highland Heights
Frazier International History Museum, 11:30 a.m.
829 West Main St., Louisville
(By invitation. Call (502) 625-0080)
KCTCS System Offices, 5:30 pm
300 North Main St., Versailles
Ashland Plaza Hotel, Ashland, 7:30 a.m.
Centre College, Old Carnegie Building, Danville, Noon
(By invitation. Call (859) 238-5218)
Eastern Kentucky University, 5 p.m.
Posey Auditorium, Stratton Building, Richmond