Governor’s Local Issues Conference Highlights Innovative Solutions
By Ed Green
P3 Kentucky Editor
Public-private partnerships are becoming increasingly common in Kentucky. That point was made obvious to local leaders last week, when hundreds of county and city officials from across the Commonwealth met in Louisville for the 42nd Annual Governor’s Local Issue Conference. The conference brings together leaders to discuss challenges and solutions to local problems.
In an era when local budgets are tight and community needs are great, it was refreshing to hear about some of the creative solutions private companies and local communities are developing. I want to highlight four solutions that were discussed – ideas that could be copied in other Kentucky communities.
Challenge 1: Expanding the Pipeline of Healthcare Providers
Officials from Galen College of Nursing made a presentation on a Perry County program that is helping Appalachian Regional Hospital (ARH) recruit and train nurses to fill vacancies in its community. The program is not only filling the hospital’s growing need for caregivers but also is creating better access to opportunities for workers in Eastern Kentucky.
I wasn’t able to sit in on the presentation by Galen’s executives, titled How Public-Private Educational Partnerships Can Improve Education and Drive Economics, but the program was highlighted during Gov. Matt Bevin’s luncheon presentation.
Working with ARH, Galen opened a nursing school in Hazard to train as many as 40 nurses per year to work in Perry County. The school is located in a renovated facility on the ARH campus.
Currently, ARH is filling its needs by hiring more than 100 traveling nurses from outside the community, but the school will allow ARH to eventually replace the traveling nurses with local workers.
“With the capacity of 40 nurses a year, if we graduate 228 nurses over five years, that means $11 million in salaries,” Department for Local Government Commissioner Sandra Dunahoo told WYMT.
Challenge 2: Bringing Broadband to Local Communities
Many of you have heard about the KentuckyWired project – the state’s largest P3 to date and one of the state’s largest infrastructure projects of any kind. The promise of KentuckyWired is that every county in Kentucky will have access to a high-speed, high-capacity broadband network created for the Commonwealth.
The project has moved forward slower than expected as teams work to obtain right-of-way access and pole-attachment agreements with utility providers, Kentucky Communications Network Authority Executive Director Phillip Brown told conference attendees. The project is moving forward but is “taking longer than anyone hoped,” he said.
No timetable was given for completion, but Brown said some communities are already preparing.
He noted that the open network will provide broadband service to state facilities in each Kentucky county, but local decision-makers will need to determine how each community can best benefit from the new network.
Brown suggested that local officials create a Fiber Board to determine options for expanding broadband in their communities. That could mean a private operator will connect to the network and offer services locally, or city or county governments could become broadband providers for residents and businesses.
Most local leaders I’ve talked with acknowledge that broadband is a key component to growing their communities and expanding educational and economic development opportunities. So it’s good to hear the KentuckyWired is making strides.
For more on KentuckyWired, click here.
Challenge 3: Preparing Workers for New Careers
Gov. Bevin and Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard talked at length about the company’s plan to create a $1.3 billion aluminum rolling mill in Greenup County and the state’ partnership with the company. The plant initially will employ more than 600 workers in high-paying careers and is expected to have a significant impact on northeast Kentucky.
One of the key components to the business plan is partnering with local public schools and area colleges to develop a degree program to prepare workers. In partnership with Ashland Community & Technical College, students will be offered a “Braidy Certificate,” a two-year degree supported by the company that will qualify graduates for $65,000 per year jobs with large, annual bonuses. The company also is developing plans to partner with Morehead State University, Bouchard said.
Braidy has received 3,500 applications for the about 600 jobs at the plant, which will break ground in April, The Daily Independent reported.
“There is no word to describe the welcome we’ve received in Eastern Kentucky,” Bouchard said. “It’s astounding.”
Challenge 4: Turning the Tide on Drug Addictions
We’ve written a lot about the state’s first local public-private partnership being created in Madison County under the new P3 procurement process passed last year. And the leaders behind the idea of creating a Healing Center in Richmond spoke at the conference.
The conference panel included P3 Kentucky Roundtable Member Jay Ingle, an attorney at Jackson Kelly PLLC; Patrick Estill, an attorney at Jackson Kelley PLLC; Madison County Judge-Executive Reagan Taylor and John Farris, managing partner of Commonwealth Economics. Jackson Kelly and Commonwealth Economics were consultants hired by Madison County to help develop an RFP for the Healing Center.
The consultants explained in detail how the new P3 process was used to develop the RFP and the detailed planning they went through to determine the Healing Center would be a better financial and social option for the community than significantly expanding its local jail.
Currently, the jail is overcrowded, and many of the inmates have drug addictions that led to their offenses.
Taylor said after he was elected, he set out to address the overcrowding issue by expanding the jail but thoughtful research by community leaders led to another conclusion.
“Going in, I really thought I was building a new detention center,” he said. “It became clear, we didn’t have a jail problem, we had a drug problem.”
Taylor said that through the Healing Center model – the first of its kind in the country – he expects to help transform many of those with addictions back into taxpayers who can contribute to the community and improve their lives.
“If we can make this work, it’s certainly something that can be replicated,” Taylor said.
For more on the Madison County project, click here.
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