Kentucky Exports Rocket to $30.9 Billion in 2017, Shattering Record

Kentucky Exports Rocket to $30.9 Billion in 2017, Shattering Record

Kentucky exports soared to record levels in 2017, for the first time topping $30 billion. Increases come primarily from exports of such Kentucky-made products as aerospace parts, transportation equipment, electronics and Kentucky’s signature industry, bourbon.

Data released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Kentucky exports totaled $30.9 billion last year, an increase of 5.8 percent over 2016 results. When compared on a per capita basis, Kentucky ranks fifth in nation for exporting.

“Kentucky businesses are thriving in the global marketplace,” said Ed Webb, President and CEO of World Trade Center Kentucky (WTC-KY). “Year-over-year advancement of Kentucky exports to the world serves as a powerful economic pillar supporting real economic growth across all regions of the Commonwealth.”

Record shipments in four of the past five years shows that the Kentucky export machine continues to gain momentum. Since 2012, Kentucky enterprises have grown the state’s exports to the world by 40 percent.


Kentucky goods are sent to over 198 countries reaching almost every corner of the world. In 2017, the top five destinations for Kentucky exports were:

  1. Canada: $7.7 billion, 3 percent increase (accounts for 25 percent of Kentucky exports)
  2. United Kingdom: $3.3 billion, 14 percent increase
  3. France: $2.9 billion, 4 percent increase
  4. China: $2.8 billion, 60 percent increase
  5. Brazil: $2.4 billion, 19 percent increase

Countries posting the largest gains in exports from Kentucky include:  Iraq (540 percent), Morocco (255 percent), Tunisia (172 percent), Kazakhstan (167 percent) and Guatemala (109 percent).


$17.6 billion in Transportation Equipment exports, comprised of finished motor vehicles and components as well as aerospace products produced from the likes of GE Aviation (Madisonville, Ky.) and Safran Landing Systems (Walton, Ky.), made this Kentucky’s number one export category. Exports from this one category account for just over 55 percent of Kentucky’s total exports.

Lee Lingo, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM) commented, “Kentucky is home to an evolving and dynamic manufacturing base. These facilities are creating jobs and opportunities here at home while making products that meet a global demand.”

Key growth categories for Kentucky exports in 2017 include:

  1. Aerospace Products: $11.7 billion, up 8 percent (accounts for nearly 20% percent of Kentucky exports)
  2. Motor Vehicles: $5.9 billion, 21% increase
  3. Computers & Electronics: $3.3 billion, 14 percent increase
  4. Kentucky Bourbon: $381 million, 29% increase
  5. Agricultural & Construction Equipment: $250 million, 31% increase

Industry sectors posting the largest percentage gains abroad include: Fruit & Tree Nuts (608 percent), Ships & Boats (510 percent), Timber & Logs (132 percent), Boilers & Tanks (79 percent) and Architectural & Structural Metals (68 percent).


“Increases in Kentucky’s aerospace exports, which alone grew over $1 billion in 2017, proves the capacity of this industry to be the dominant economic driver for the Commonwealth,” said D. Stewart Ditto II, Executive Director of the Kentucky Aerospace Industry Consortium (KAIC). “This is the primary reason why our organization was delighted to partner with WTC-KY on a trade and business mission to take Kentucky-based aerospace, aviation and related businesses in advanced manufacturing to Canada.”

The trade and business mission to Canada, which will take place April 15-20, 2018 in Montreal and Quebec City, is being organized by WTC-KY and KAIC and will be led by Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton.

Mission participants will have the chance to prospect new business opportunities at the Aero Montreal Aerospace Innovation Forum 2018. Participants will also have tailored business meetings and professional networking receptions.

For more information regarding this report or how you can expand your business internationally, visit

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