Aerospace Investment Could Help Kentucky’s Economy and Education System, Advocates Tell Lawmakers

State investment in aerospace development could spur economic growth and improve students’ math and science scores, advocates for the field’s growth in Kentucky told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Mike Young, executive director of the Kentucky Aviation Council, said  Kentucky was a national leader in the field when the organization was founded in the mid-90s.

The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education has partnered with more than 30 schools in Kentucky and Tennessee to shore up math and science scores and “pipeline” students into aerospace fields, said Tim Smith, the institute’s chief executive.

Smith said 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. 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,” Smith said.

Young said the future development of Kentucky’s aerospace industry may 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,” Young told lawmakers, noting that some companies have divisions in both industries.

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.”

With continued investment, the state could become an aerospace leader again, Young said.

The industry accounts for about $5.5 billion of Kentucky’s economy.

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