Op-Ed for Courier Journal
Governor Paul Patton
August 28, 2002
As Louisville moves toward merger,
it is critical that the region work to implement a stronger economic future as
set forward in the recommendations of the Brookings Institution report “Beyond
Merger: A Competitive Vision for the Regional City of Louisville”.
As Governor, I am pleased that the state has taken steps in recent years
that will provide Louisville the tools to successfully implement many of the
Particularly in the area of
education, and its vital linkage to the new economy, the state has provided the
foundation Louisville must have to build a successful future.
Building on the KERA reforms implemented in the early 90’s, our
administration addressed postsecondary education reform with the historic
Postsecondary Improvement Act of 1997. And
that initiative is beginning to show dramatic results.
As of last fall, 25,000 more students were enrolled than at the time of
the reforms and the Community and
Technical College System alone had increased enrollment by nearly 40%.
This year’s fall enrollment promises to show additional increases
across the state.
The Brookings report calls for the
need to expand the role of higher education in workforce development, and we had
a similiar goal as part of our 1997 reforms. We hoped to create a community and technical college system
that was more responsive to regional economic needs and workforce priorities.
You have only to look right here in Louisville to see the success of
those efforts. There is no more innovative model in the nation than the
Metropolitan College, which I challenged our public higher education entities in
Jefferson County to create as a response to the needs of UPS when that company
was considering their hub expansion in Louisville.
The innovative collaboration that has led to over 1900 students currently
enrolled in the Metropolitan College can be emulated as the region charts its
The report cites a low level of
university research and other “knowledge deficits” as part of the reason
Louisville ranks 37th out of the 50 largest metropolitan regions for
its overall workforce education. That
statistic is clearly in the process of changing. Our 1997 postsecondary initiative created the Research
Challenge Trust Fund, known as “Bucks for Brains”, to support nationally
recognized research programs at the University of Kentucky, the University of
Louisville and our regional institutions. The ability to attract and retain
top-notch scientists and engineers through Bucks for Brains has given Kentucky
the competitive edge it must have in order to build the research infrastructure
vital to future economic growth.
Bucks for Brains has been a key
factor in the University of Louisville’s growth as a research institution.
It matched both biennial rounds of state funding with private donations
and increased its total endowment from $183 million to $500 million. The number
of endowed chairs at U of L has risen from 25 to 87.
U of L's endowment is now in the top 20 of public universities in the
nation and the largest in the state. Bucks
for Brains researchers have brought in over $28 million in extramural funding
– each million of which generates more than $4.5 million for local and state
economies. It has encouraged the
University of Louisville and Louisville hospitals to invest additional millions
to provide the infrastructure needed to complete the package that ultimately
lures top researchers. A
continuation of the Bucks for Brains program is vital to Louisville’s ability
to upgrade the educational attainment of its homegrown workforce as well as
attract the new knowledge-workers from outside.
The Brookings report calls for
making our colleges and universities full partners in the region’s economic
development strategy. Again, the
state has laid important groundwork to achieve that goal. In 2000, we built on our postsecondary reforms with the
passage of the Kentucky Innovation Act, legislation that created the Office of
the New Economy and the Kentucky Innovation Commission. This initiative has resulted in the New Economy Strategic
Plan unveiled last January, which for the first time in Kentucky formalizes a
plan to link our investments in education to our plans for economic development.
Kentucky’s New Economy Strategic
Plan involved hundreds of volunteers and resulted in regional strategies that
identify key focus areas to insure Kentucky’s competitiveness in a
knowledge-based economy. In
Louisville those focus areas range from biotechnology and human health and
development to materials science and manufacturing technologies. The first specific initiative to receive New
Economy funding here will be a Center for Cardiac Assist Devices. And the Commonwealth has already provided $6 million in
funding for the new Biomedical/Information
I said when I
began my second term as Governor that I have four priorities: education,
education, education and education. In
addition to our emphasis on elementary, secondary and postsecondary education,
we launched a new Early Childhood initiative targeted to helping our very
youngest children reach their full potential.
And in 2000, Kentucky increased funding for adult education dramatically
and placed oversight for the program with the Council on Postsecondary
Education. As a result, we have seen over a 57% increase in
enrollment in our adult education programs since these changes were enacted and
adults receiving their GED’s reached an all time high in 2001.
And we launched the “Education
Pays” public awareness campaign to establish a realization in the mind of
every Kentuckian that education pays culturally, sociologically, economically
and in many other ways. The
Brookings report echoes this philosophy and ties education to Louisville’s
potential to become a model, progressive city.
Louisville has long been the
engine that drives Kentucky’s economy.
Now, the Metro Louisville/Jefferson Merged Government has the potential
to become the model by which other regions create opportunities necessary for
full participation in the new knowledge-based economy. The challenges are great but the rewards are even greater.
We have in place the foundation upon which Louisville, with foresight and
collaboration, can build the thriving, progressive, and dynamic metropolitan
area that will be vital to Kentucky’s success in this new century.