Northern Kentucky means business. It’s more than a slogan, it’s a fact.

Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties are a primary economic engine for the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area. They represent about 17 percent of the region’s population but produce 22 percent of the new jobs, according to Tri-County Economic Development (Tri-ED), the Northern Kentucky economic development agency.

“We have a lot of things going for us and still do, despite the ebb and flow of opportunity,” says Steve Stevens, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Through April of this year, for example, nine companies announced $130 million in new investment, adding more than 400 new jobs. That doesn’t include Toyota’s $360 million investment announced in April to expand its Georgetown assembly plant to produce the Lexus ES 350, adding up to 750 jobs. Toyota’s North American manufacturing and engineering headquarters in Erlanger employs 1,400. And its parts distribution center in Hebron employs another 400.

Last year, two dozen companies evenly split between relocations and expansions, created more than 3,700 jobs. That was nearly triple the prior year’s job growth and the fourth best growth on record.

Probably the best testament to Northern Kentucky’s business climate is that many of its major employers are expanding. In addition to Toyota, that includes cosmetic maker L’Oreal USA, machine tool maker Mazak Corp., German-based automation supplier Balluff Inc., and online retailer Amazon.com.

Data compiled by Hoover’s found more than 1,000 businesses in Northern Kentucky generating at least $1 million in annual revenue. What makes Northern Kentucky attractive for new or expanding business?

Stevens says it starts with location. The region sits within 600 miles of nearly half of the U.S. population, ideal from the standpoint of logistics and distribution. The region has excellent transportation access that includes Interstates 71, 74, 75 and 275, plus the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron offers nearly 200 daily flights. Cincinnati ranks as the nation’s fifth largest inland port with 52 million tons of barge traffic on the Ohio River and mainline rail service includes CSX, Norfolk and Southern railroads.

“The cost of doing business is relatively low,” Stevens says. Kentucky was ranked the seventh most business-friendly state and the sixth lowest cost state for new corporate headquarters in a recent Tax Foundation Report.

The region’s quality of life, from schools to recreation amenities, is also important to new and expanding businesses.

“We have very livable community,” says Stevens. “It is as much about where you live as where you work.”

The region’s civilian workforce of about 200,000 supports a diverse economy with 45 percent of total jobs in the business sector, 44 percent in services and about 11 percent in manufacturing.

Making sure those workers have the necessary skills for tomorrow’s jobs is an ongoing challenge for Northern Kentucky as it is for other regions. A survey found local manufacturers have about 700 unfilled jobs. The requirements for many jobs lost during the recession have changed, Stevens says, and employers are turning to job retraining, recruiting ex-military and even retirees for part-time work to fill their need.

One big advantage not often mentioned, Stevens says, is the spirit of community and cooperation that gets things done developed over the last 40 years among Northern Kentucky communities. It started with the merger of two chambers of commerce, creating the Northern Kentucky Chamber in 1969, continued with Tri-ED and shared services in sanitation, water and transit.

“I have to credit our forefathers with the foresight for a lot of that,” he says.

So what resources are available to start or relocate a business to Northern Kentucky?

A good place to start is the commonwealth’s small business web portal (www.onestop.ky.gov) that offers information and resources for planning, starting operating, expand and moving a business in Kentucky.

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (www.nkychamber.com) is the primary business advocate, monitoring needs, offering training for employees, and sponsoring job fairs. Its jobs-nky.com website, in partnership with Tri-EE, is a tool for employers searching for workers with skills.

Tri-ED (www.NorthernKentuckyUSA.com), formed in 1987 by Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties as the primary economic development vehicle, focuses on attraction, retention and expansion of industries in three main areas: advanced manufacturing, professional office operation and technology.

A Tri-ED division, NKY E-Zone, offers a support program for businesses ranging from start-up entrepreneurs to established companies commercializing a new product, technology or process. That support includes early stage grants, forgivable loans and equity investments through the Kentucky Enterprise Funds and the Kentucky Department of Commercialization and Innovation. The E-Zone has assisted more than 200 local startups and early-stage companies.

Business education and training resources at Northern Kentucky University (www.nku.edu) include:

• The Small Business Development Center (www.smallbiznku.com) offers one-on-one consultations at no cost to on developing a business plan, access to capital, strategic growth, marketing, technology, and internal process improvements. It is part of a network of centers across the commonwealth.

• The NKU College of Informatics, operating out of a two-year-old, $52 million facility, is focused on communication, computer science and business informatics. Through its Center for Applied Informatics, students work with companies and others on cutting-edge projects.

• The NKU Fifth Third Bank Entrepreneurship Institute offers academic and outreach programs in entrepreneurship. The outreach programs include companies that use student teams to address issues in their business such as marketing, finance and human resources.

Gateway Community and Technical College (www.gateway.kctcs.edu), part of the Kentucky Community College system, offers a variety of associate degree and certificate training. Its Center for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness, opened at its Florence campus in 2010, offers workforce training in all types of manufacturing skills.

Thomas More College (www.thomasmore.edu), the Catholic liberal arts college in Crestview Hills, allows MBA students to put what they’ve learned to work serving as consultants to businesses and other organizations dealing with challenges.

The Greater Cincinnati chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives [SCORE](www.scoreworks.org) offers variety of small business information from retired business people and resources across the entire region.