The presidents of Kentucky's two major universities are praising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for his role in helping to secure funding for an Obama administration partnership meant to spur manufacturing jobs.
President Obama announced earlier today a $140 million commitment in Department of Defense funds would be going towards a program for two innovation institutes.
The University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky have both been selected to participate in the public-private partnership.
The program is set up to focus on light metal and high-tech digital design manufacturing.
As WFPL's Jacob Ryan reported Tuesday, UofL will be working through the Chicago location at the University of Illinois labs.
UK is going through an institute in Michigan.
Despite McConnell's objections towards the Obama administration's jobs plan in years past, the GOP leader did contact the U.S. Army on behalf of the UofL to express his support for its application.
"We appreciate Senator McConnell’s continued support of the research initiatives at the University of Louisville, and for our DMDI application in particular, which will help create research jobs in the area," says UofL President James Ramsey.
According to McConnell's office, the senator also sent a letter to the U.S. Navy in November 2013 on behalf of UK. The letter said the university would be able "to purchase necessary equipment and hire additional research personnel to spur metal manufacturing innovation."
"The University of Kentucky is excited to be engaged in the Navy consortium grant, that will support research and jobs important to Kentucky’s economy," says UK President Eli Capilouto. "We are deeply grateful to Senator Mitch McConnell for his support of UK’s application and for his continued steadfast support of our mission of service to the Commonwealth."
The Obama administration points out this project is "another step forward toward fulfilling the president’s vision for a full national network" of at least 45 similar institutes. Some have even described the plan as "Obama's New Deal" as part of his so-called "year of action."
From The White House:
President Obama has declared 2014 a year of action, and while he will continue to work with Congress on new measures to create jobs and grow the economy, he will also use his executive authority to get things done. After shedding jobs for a decade, our manufacturers have added 622,000 jobs since early 2010, including more than 80,000 over the past four months. Manufacturing production is growing at its fastest pace in over a decade, and the President is committed to building on that progress.
McConnell bypassed any mention of the president or his agenda in a release sent out Tuesday afternoon. But he was quick to focus on the role Kentucky's institutions of higher learning are playing.
"I applaud the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky for their strong applications and continued commitment to supporting domestic manufacturing and research jobs in Kentucky," McConnell said in a statement. "I was happy to assist President Ramsey and President Capilouto on their efforts because these partnerships have the potential to create domestic jobs, grow the economy, and increase the competitiveness of American companies."