July 10, 2017

Vivek Sarin looks to match Kentucky workforce with growing industry

CED executive officer discusses recent visit to SelectUSA Investment Summit


Vivek Sarin was named executive officer within the Cabinet for Economic Development in May, and he hit the ground running, identifying and addressing issues within Kentucky’s workforce.

Sarin arrived at the cabinet with no shortage of experience, having more than 25 years in industry, including more than two decades in manufacturing at the helm of Shelby Industries LLC in Shelbyville and as founder and president of Juvo Co., a professional services firm.

He brings with him a strong network of business contacts and an understanding of the internal and external dynamics and challenges companies face at every development stage.

After nearly two months on the job, Sarin said he has been most encouraged by the state’s approach toward new and expanding business.

“What has stuck out to me the most – and I somewhat anticipated this coming in – is that this particular cabinet, under this governor and administration and with the legislature’s accomplishments, has really put us in a season of expansion,” he said. “The opportunities are tremendous, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the volume of work and activity.”

Luckily for Sarin – as well as the state – that influx of business is exactly what motivates him.

“It actually energizes me when the challenges are many and the projects are vast and every day is different than the last,” he said. “That puts a lot of wind in my sails.”

Networking has been a major part of Sarin’s on-the-job experience thus far, and that includes a recent trip to Washington D.C. for the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit. Sarin, along with Gov. Matt Bevin, Sec. Terry Gill and other representatives from the Cabinet for Economic Development, met with company executives from around the world to discuss potential investment in the US, and more specifically, Kentucky. He said the matchmaking opportunities at the event lived up to the hype.

“What an outstanding event,” Sarin said. “I’ve attended trade shows, both in the US and in other countries, and I found SelectUSA to be very professional, incredibly well organized and the attendance – and engagement by the people in attendance – was just outstanding. It was worth every minute of our time to be there.”

He described the meetings as constructive and purposeful, and added that the opportunities for foreign direct investment warrant further attention.

“The interest that companies from other countries were showing to invest in the US is genuine. It’s real,” he said. “All of us have come back with a number of very qualified business leads that are deserving of thorough follow-up.”

Re-evaluating the Workforce Landscape

While Sarin’s business background provides him with the skillset to help bring new business to the state, his primary objective as executive officer is to simplify and hone Kentucky’s workforce strategies.

There are two fundamental challenges, Sarin said, that face the commonwealth’s modern workforce. One issue currently faced by states across the nation is the need to close the skills gap to ensure businesses have the appropriate talent to fill all of their needs.

Second, the commonwealth needs to simplify its means for business leaders to find answers, Sarin said. In the past, the state has put a great deal of focus on the development of workforce-related programs.

“We now have so many programs that if you are an outsider or a new employer in the state, you just don’t know what phone number to call or where to go,” he said. “We’ve got to take a look at all of those programs and figure out how we develop a workforce system that addresses the needs of our constituents.”

Sarin said that even though he considers himself still in the break-in period, he’s helping develop new strategies and is motivated in the opportunity to work alongside Sec. Gill, who also has an extensive entrepreneurial background.

“Folks can expect to see a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm come out of our cabinet, because this truly is a great season of opportunity that we’re in,” Sarin said. “The governor and the legislature have already made some hard decisions and opened some doors and paved a beautiful pathway for us to just walk on and pursue.”

Now, Sarin will take the baton in an effort to help lead Kentucky’s workforce into a future that includes a growing and increasingly diverse industrial landscape.

To learn more about Kentucky’s workforce initiatives, visit www.thinkkentucky.com/workforce.

For more information on the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit, visit www.selectusa.gov/2017-investment-summit.

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