Economy

Technology and innovation are buzzy terms often associated with places like Silicon Valley, Austin and the East Coast. But a report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation wants to break that perception.

The D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank calls the report “High-Tech Nation.” It was released last month from data compiled at the beginning of the summer of 2016. Data come from sources such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the report, 3.7 percent of workers in Kentucky are in fields related to STEM —science, technology, engineering and math. Adams Nager, an economic policy analyst, says that leaves a lot of room for growth.

“The 3.7 percent, that is some place where Kentucky can improve,” he said.

Nager points to the progress in the state’s aerospace industry as an opportunity. He says programs such as Morehead State University’s Space Science Center are examples of how to grow Kentucky’s STEM workforce.

According to the report, the aerospace industry employs about 15,000 workers in the state.

“That’s an industry where Kentucky has very purposefully said, you know, we’re gonna excel in this,” Nager says.

Here’s how Kentucky fares in key areas according to the report:

64: The percentage of households with broadband coverage of 25 Mbps or more. That’s lower than the the national average of 81.5 percent. Although the foundation would like to see that percentage increase, Nager says that’s not a huge red flag since it’s harder to provide high speed internet in rural areas.

70,049: The number of workers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the state.

6.6: The percentage of foreign-born persons with a graduate or professional degree out of all workers with a graduate or professional degree in the state. Nager says this number isn’t surprising given that Kentucky doesn’t have a large percentage of immigrants compared to other states. The national median and average is 10 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively.

$326: The amount of public Research and Development funding per worker. The U.S. median is $638 and the U.S. average is $1,059. Nager says, if possible, the state should lobby for more funds for R&D. “That type of R&D has really beneficial spillovers for technology industries in the state,” he says. And many times private investment comes along with federal R&D funding.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.