To develop the Interstate-64 corridor between Lexington and Louisville, a new report says the region must work with companies already based in Kentucky. Then, they can develop the highly skilled workers needed by advanced manufacturers.
Instead of establishing a string of factories along the I-64 corridor, the BEAM report says local leaders must first train the needed workforce. BEAM stands for the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement and has grown beyond Louisville and Lexington. It now includes 22 central Kentucky counties. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who’s one of BEAM’s founders, admits, early thoughts about a string of new plants along I-64 were not well founded. “That’s an illusion to imagine that we’re gonna be hooked together with a band of factories. What can occur is, in our regions, we will continue to grow and expand and build on these world class manufactures we have today,” said Gray. Two years ago, Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer helped establish BEAM. It’s meant to build the economy along the I-64 Corridor in central Kentucky. Gray says they’d need to partner with the region’s major economic drivers…companies like Toyota, Ford, and General Electric. The report was commissioned by the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement. It calls for more worker training and a partnership with the state’s leading manufacturers. Gray, who’s one of BEAM’s founders, says there’s also a role for community colleges and technical schools. “The challenge we’ve got is to create the resources, the skill sets, the workforce, that’s the human capital strategy. One of our goals is to double the number of engineering graduates and both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville,” added Gray. The BEAM report also calls for the creation of a state-funded advanced manufacturing training center near Toyota’s Georgetown plant. Besides Lexington and Louisville, some 22 counties are involved in the ‘BEAM’ project.