Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Why Kentucky and technology don't mix, in seven paragraphs

Warning - this is a rant!
Just when you thought the state of Kentucky may be coming out of the dark ages when it comes to economic development, it does something to firmly reentrench itself again. To me, this seven paragraph story says it all:
From 14WFIE.com - Fletcher Cuts $370 Million From Budget

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher's pen got a workout Monday, when he cut $370 million in construction projects from the state budget.
That includes more than $18 million in western Kentucky projects.
One of the casualties is a $14 million appropriation for the second phase of the Tech Center in Owensboro. The funding would have allowed construction of the facility to be completed including classrooms, business incubators and an expansion of Western Kentucky University.

The story goes on to state that. . .
And on Tuesday, he'll make a stop in Muhlenberg County, where Greenville officials announced a new industry. Gourmet Express LLC will invest more than $7 million in the Commonwealth to move its manufacturing operation from Gridley, Illinois. It will mean 200 new jobs within two years.

sigh. . . I understand that Kentucky is having some budget issues, a state having budget issues is not something new. And OK, one of those cuts was $14 milliion for a technology center in Owensboro. A center with plans to have programs to educate students and workers for the technology industry. A center with plans to serve as a business incubator for startup tech companies. Hey, these are tough times, maybe we'll get that money next budget.

What sets me off is the last part of the story (and thanks to the writer, I don't know if she meant to or not but she really gave me a good set-up). The story goes on to state the the Governor will be coming to Muhlenberg county to welcome Gourmet Express LLC's manufacturing operations. For those of you not familiar with Kentucky, Muhlenberg county is a pretty poor county. Now I'm not trying to knock Gourmet Express but the last thing Western Kentucky needs is another 200 low paying jobs (somehow, I don't think a job packaging frozen vegetables is going to pay that much). For some reason, the governments (state, local, etc. . .) of Kentucky seem to think that quantity is better over quality. All communities need a couple of large employers to help drive the economy. But thousands of low paying jobs don't put you at the forefront of economic development. When moms and dads work all their lives in these low paying jobs and scrabble enough money to send their sons and daughters to college to get a better education where the heck are these kids supposed to go? Back to digging coal or welding car frames?
So I've ranted. Taken separately I could probably handle these two pieces of information. But putting them in the same story just shows how screwed up Kentucky can sometimes be. We had to cut several million in projects from the budget including some economic development projects because our economy is cold but hey! we recruited another low paying employer to the region (sorry Gourmet Express LLC, I'm sure you are a fine company to work for that will pay lots to the state in taxes, didn't mean to just single you out). If Kentucky wants to see what happens when you rely to heavily on manufacturing and jobs that don't require a professional workforce, just look at what is happening in Michigan now that the auto industry is in a funk. Oh well. . .


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