Advocates for aerospace development in Kentucky briefed lawmakers on the needs of the industry, and how state investment in the field could spur economic growth and improve math and science scores among students.
Mike Young is the executive director of the Kentucky Aviation Council. He says that when the organization was founded in the mid-90s, Kentucky was a national leader in the field, and that future development could depend on partnerships with the automotive industry.
“If you think about it, manufacturing airplane, aerospace devices, has similar skills and machinery used in the automotive industry," said Young. "Some companies are in both things. When we found out about it, we found out that no one has done a study to identify all our resources. We find aerospace manufacturing plants by accident.”
To hone that edge, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education has partnered with over 30 schools in Kentucky and Tennessee to shore up math and science scores and “pipeline” students into aerospace fields.
Dr. Tim Smith is the CEO of the institute. He says that increased coordination among state cabinets in focusing on aerospace could accelerate the impact of the student pipeline.
“Over the past three years, we’ve noticed we’ve had 100 percent graduation rate," said Smith. "Not one student has dropped out of school. We’re 17 percent higher on the state average on the ACT, and we meet the benchmarks for college readiness in math and science. We exceed them quite heavily.”
Young says that with continued investment, the state could become an aerospace leader again. The industry accounts for about $5.5 billion of Kentucky’s economy.