Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 29, 2013

More engineers

Mayors of two largest cities say shortage limits growth


The Independent

ASHLAND — What can make Kentucky’s proverbial “Golden Triangle” — the prosperous and economically booming area of the state formed by the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Covington — even more golden? More engineers, say the mayors of the state’s two largest cities.

A new report released Monday says the area anchored by both cities has the potential for a significant boost in manufacturing jobs. However, the entire region needs more engineers to reach its full potential.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says Kentucky ranks near the bottom nationally in the number of engineers it produces. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer points to engineers as “job-creating machines,” saying their work spins off other jobs. Having more engineers would expand the region’s manufacturing clout.

While our corner of Kentucky is more than 100 miles east of the Golden Triangle, there also is a need for more engineers in northeast Kentucky. In western Kentucky, economic development leaders have tried to convince the University of Louisville  to offer a satellite engineering program in Paducah or Murray in hopes of training engineers who will remain in the area.

Fischer and Gray are urging  Gov. Steve Beshear to include money in his budget proposal to lawmakers next year that would expand engineering programs at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, the only two schools with engineering programs. It will not be easy to come up with additional funds to train more engineers at a time when funding for higher education is stagnant and other state programs are being cut, but rather than an expense, money to train more engineers should be considered a wise investment in the state’s economic future.