- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - After a year in office, Gov. Matt Bevin has chosen a Louisville businessman with economic development experience to lead the state agency tasked with luring new industries to Kentucky and aiding existing businesses in hopes they expand.

The Republican’s selection of Terry R. Gill Jr. as his secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development comes as Bevin and other GOP leaders prepare a 2017 legislative agenda that’s expected to focus on economic growth and job creation.

Bevin praised Gill for his “business competence and a passion for economic development.”

“Kentucky is poised for unparalleled success in the years ahead,” Bevin said Wednesday in a statement in Frankfort. “Thanks to a new pro-business majority in the legislature and our focus on eliminating bureaucratic red tape, Kentucky is becoming more business-friendly by the day.”

Republicans will be in complete control of the General Assembly after their historic takeover of the state House in last month’s election. The GOP’s agenda includes right-to-work legislation, which would make it illegal for companies to force employees to join labor unions. Bevin’s to-do list includes overhauling the state’s tax code.

Bevin inherited an acting economic development secretary from his Democratic predecessor, Steve Beshear. Erik Dunnigan took over for Larry Hayes in November 2015 when Hayes retired; Dunnigan had been his deputy secretary.

Bevin took office the next month. Dunnigan departed last month for a private-sector job, and another acting secretary for the Cabinet department, which has about 65 employees, wasn’t appointed.

“We’ve been working closely with the governor’s office pretty much on a daily basis,” cabinet spokesman Joe Lilly said Wednesday.

Bevin maintained the state did not miss a beat in the year without a permanent secretary. Gill’s appointment takes effect Jan. 1, the governor’s office said.

Gill called it an “exciting time” to assume the role of economic development secretary, and praised Bevin’s efforts to bolster workforce development and to eliminate or revise some of the state’s regulations governing private businesses.

“We have a lot of work to do, but given the incredible assets we possess, I’m confident we will succeed in growing the state’s economic base,” he said.

Gill most recently served as president of OneTouchPoint, a marketing services organization. He previously was vice president of EnterpriseCorp, an arm of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce. In that role, Gill focused on increasing the number of companies headquartered in Louisville.

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