BARBOURVILLE – After making stops in Somerset and Williamsburg Tuesday to announce $290 million in new economic development opportunities, Gov. Andy Beshear made it an even $300 million when he presented a $10 million check to the Knox County Board of Education to support a major renovation project at the Knox County Career and Technical Center (CTC).
“Anytime we can gather to make an investment in public education and cast a vision for what the future holds for our children, is a time to be celebrated,” said Knox County Superintendent Jermey Ledford, who welcomed the Governor and other state officials.
“In just a couple of years the building that stands before us will be transformed,” added Ledford, saying the renovations would provide new opportunities for students and the community. “I believe that this is just the beginning for Knox County Public Schools. Through learning opportunities like those at the CTC, our students will be able to achieve industry certifications and succeed with internships leading to future careers.”
The renovation project at the Knox County CTC will include a full building refurbishment and upgrades to the health science labs, engineering technology facility, as well as the automotive, electrical and welding technology facilities. The renovations at the school, which also serves Barbourville Independent Schools, will provide students with state-of-the-art resources, delivering a high-quality education and a competitive advantage in the workforce.
“This funding will make a tremendous difference for students training to be the next engineers, health care workers, welders, mechanics and business leaders. By providing students with the best tools, facilities and equipment, we are setting them up to succeed,” said Gov. Beshear. “These renovations will also help ensure businesses, both locally and around the commonwealth, have a skilled labor force ready to work and innovate in our booming economy.”
The $10 million comes as a larger $75 million pool of investment intended to upgrade Vocational Education Centers throughout the Commonwealth as part of Gov. Beshear’s Better Kentucky Plan. Through a bipartisan agreement with legislators, Gov. Beshear’s Better Kentucky Plan aims to create 14,500 jobs and allocate more than $750 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to build schools, expand access to broadband and deliver clean drinking water and quality sewer systems across the commonwealth.
On Tuesday, Gov. Beshear said State Representative Tom O’Dell Smith was a champion for the legislation in setting up the program and thanked Senate President Robert Stivers for his contributions in planning, as well. Gov. Beshear said that the $10 million awarded to the Knox County CTC was the maximum investment allowed under the program. He said the program had “lit the commonwealth on fire” and that officials had received so many applications, they had to turn down projects they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“That’s why I’m certainly going to include in my recommended budget, that will then go over to the legislature, another $75 million, because this was competitive,” said Gov. Beshear. “I mean you talk about dollars that are given, I believe dollars are earned,” he added, noting that the difference between projects that got awarded and those that didn’t was .5 points.
“So let me tell you, you ought to be proud of this school system. You ought to be proud of this principal and every single person who was a part of putting this application or creating the program. You all earned this,” the Governor also added.
Gov. Beshear said that with the recent multi-million investment opportunities by companies like Firestone in Williamsburg and App Harvest in other parts of the region, as well as plans for a multi-billion investment by Ford Motor Company, the region would soon see more job growth than anyone could have ever imagined.
“As we look at continued expansions, as we look at more companies looking at parts of Kentucky, you are going to have an incredible, completive advantage right here,” he said referencing the Knox County CTC. “Any company is going to be able to see you training the workforce of the future in realtime.”
The Knox County CTC was built in 1960 and received one renovation in 1966 to add an office space suite and additional classroom space. It is one of the oldest centers in the state not to have received any significant renovation since it was built, says the Knox County School District.
“I think I can speak for all of the students at the CTC when I say we are so excited about this renovation,” said Knox County CTC sophomore Jeffrey Ketcham. “We can’t wait to see it get started. We already feel like we have the best students and teachers that we could possibly have and we will finally have the best building and new, upgraded equipment to match.”
Knox CTC Principal Ralph Halcomb, who has been with the school for the last 16 years, said that when he first heard about the renovations and upgrades to his school, no one was more excited than he was. He said he was excited for his staff, calling them the best staff a principal could ever have, but that he was mostly excited for the students.
“Our students come here ready,” he said. “They’re eager and they’re willing to learn. They’re ready to work. They’ll finally get to do that in a state of the art facility.”
Halcomb said it was a goal of the school to be a top-10 performing center in the state. He said students were currently earning dual-credit hours through one of the CTC’s biggest partner, Southeast Community and Technical College, which through a partnership with KCEOC Community Action Agency is building a Barbourville-based Work Ready Center expected to be finished in 2022.
“When we come together to develop and fund projects that become opportunities for our youth, I believe we embody the meaning of Team Kentucky,” noted Knox County Judge-Executive Mike Mitchell. “The Knox County Career and Technical Center will not only serve as a feeder program to the Work Ready Center and other post-secondary institutions, but make sure that Knox County has a strong workforce not just for Knox County, but the region and the state and prove to be vital part of Team Kentucky.”
“It’s our mission here to empower the workforce of tomorrow, to build a better community,” Halcomb said. “Thanks to Governor Beshear, and thanks to Robert Stivers, Tom O’Dell Smith, our local leaders, we’re well on our way to achieving more than we ever thought possible.”