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Comer Tours Paducah Regional Innovation Hub
By Tim Brockwell
PADUCAH - Congressman James Comer visited Paducah Friday morning to tour the Paducah Public Schools Regional Innovation Hub, which is currently under construction.

The new facility, which is set to be open by August, will serve the region in training students of all ages in various high-demand industry skills through hands-on instruction. The $24.3 million project is being funded through a $4.5 million state Work Ready Grant, $3.5 million in available PISD funds and $16.33 million in 20-year bonds sold by the Paducah Independent School District. 

Comer met with PPS officials in a round table discussion to talk about how the new hub will benefit the community by helping to develop a highly trained local workforce that companies need.  

"If we're gonna get industries to come back to the United States, or to expand their manufacturing in the United States, we have to prove to those industries we have the workforce. Area technology [centers] like this are developing the next generation of workforce." Comer said.

The project is a collaboration between the Paducah Public Schools, the Paducah Area Technical School, higher education centers, the Paducah Economic Development Council and businesses in emerging industries such as technology, health care, transportation, and advanced manufacturing. Comer said one of the advantages Paducah has over many other communities is how well leaders from these and other local industries work with our public school system, adding that these relationships help create an environment that makes it easier to help bring projects like this to fruition. 

"Participation from the private sector in Paducah is already there with this facility, and a lot of facilities and communities don't have this type of local partnership because maybe they don't have the quality of industry, or maybe there's just not a good relationship between the private sector and the public school system. You have a good relationship here." Comer said.

Comer said part of the solution to reducing student debt, which is at an all-time high, is for more students to consider learning a skill and getting certified instead of a four-year degree.

"We have too many kids going and advancing their education at universities getting four year degrees. They're graduating with a lot of student loan debt and they have a worthless degree," He said. "Many times you don't even need any type of education beyond high school if you get the skills certified here in these area technology centers."

Comer added that he thinks more federal and state funding should go toward technology training centers, instead of traditional four-year institutions. 

"I really commend the local school system here. They have really put a lot of thought into this, and I think it's gonna make a huge difference," He said. "But as far as Washington goes, we need to focus more on spending education dollars for area technology centers to try to develop kids to have more skills."

Published 12:23 PM, Friday Jan. 31, 2020
Updated 03:02 PM, Saturday Feb. 01, 2020

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