FRANKFORT, United States, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Kentucky is happy to observe a surge of Chinese investment in the southwestern U.S. state, which brings much-needed jobs, Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton told Xinhua in an interview here on Monday.
"Kentucky is easy to work with, we need jobs here, so we welcome jobs," Hampton said.
Also on Monday, she met with a delegation of Chinese investors touring the bluegrass state for more opportunities after signing contracts Friday to become members in a new industrial park devoted to Asian carp processing in Wickliffe City, Ballard County.
The International Fisheries Industrial Park will add another 150 full-time jobs, according to Angie Yu, president of the Two Rivers Fisheries, whose success is the main reason that convinced seven more Chinese investors to join her in the otherwise little-known U.S. Heartland outpost and jointly form a zero-waste fish processing cluster.
Hampton praised the investors for seeing "opportunity" when everyone else only sees "problem," referring to the notoriety Asian carp have gained over the years after crowding out indigenous fish species in the Mississippi River and surrounding waters following their introduction to the United States in the 1970s.
The newly formed industrial park includes makers of fish ball, smoked fish, dry fish, fish sauce and a manufacturer who turns fish guts into organic fertilizers.
Two Rivers Fisheries, the No. 1 exporter of Asian carp in Kentucky, has harvested 10 million pounds (4.5 million kg) of Asian carp from the Mississippi River since it began operation in 2012. The company's goal for this year is 5 million pounds and it aims to reach an annual production level of 20 million pounds by 2024.
By 2018, there were only eight Chinese companies operating in Kentucky, statistics showed. Hampton said she hopes Kentucky will be on the top of Chinese investors' list as they are looking to expand into the United States.
"KFC is clearly a global brand and we want Kentucky, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to be an equally well-known global brand," the lieutenant governor said, after being told by Xinhua that Kentucky is perhaps best known in China for being the hometown of the popular fast-food chain. She said Kentucky government officials are working to streamline business rules to make the state more investor-friendly.
Hampton, who has 19 years of work experience in the corrugated packaging industry, is especially enthusiastic about the reopening next month of an idled paper mill in Wickliffe, which gets a new lease on life after being acquired by Chinese company Shanying International.
"I know the impact of a paper mill on the local economy, especially when a company closes one. So for a paper mill to open, it's incredible -- that's another few hundred jobs there," she said.
Speaking of the trip Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made to Shanghai for China International Import Expo in November 2018, Hampton said that Bevin was "very surprised" to see that he was the only U.S. governor there because "there is so much opportunity."
"He said that (being the only U.S. governor there) just increases the odds of some of those companies coming to Kentucky," she recalled.
"We are thrilled (that) investors are here (in Kentucky). I'm thrilled to hear about the industrial park," she said.