BEAM brings together students, workers and industry


by WHAS editors

Posted on June 26, 2014 at 5:10 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 27 at 1:14 AM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - A think tank that believes America's metropolitan areas hold the key to rebounding from the great recession was back in Louisville on June 26.

Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville said, “What our goal is, is that when large global multinational decisions are made, we want our region to be at the table.”

Fischer started the conversation with the Brookings Institution's Global Cities Initiative on June 26.

That project, called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM), is organized around confidence that manufacturing is coming back to the United States and cities will lead the way.

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution said, “We're seeing a reshoring of manufacturing in our country. We're seeing a growth of manufacturing jobs. Here's the issue: we need to upgrade the skills of our workers to participate in this growth.”

When Westport Axle Corporation brought some of its manufacturing from Brazil to Louisville in 1986, it overestimated Louisville's ability to supply enough skilled workers.

Rena Sharpe of Westport Axle Corp. said, “that people would walk in the door, they'd be able to hit the ground running and make parts. We found very quickly that that was not the case. We struggled very, very much.”

Receiving a 3D printer-generated key to the city today, the director of the Brookings Institution's Global Cities Initiative shared a key conclusion of his own: that a rebound in the U.S. economy can be led by innovation in cities.

And to again lead on manufacturing, Louisville and Lexington need to upgrade workers' skills.
“We really stopped giving kids the technological skills they need to succeed in manufacturing. But I think your community college, even back into your high schools here are beginning to shift over to this new model. Perhaps its an old model, but it's technologically driven,” said Katz.

Augusta Julian of Bluegrass Community & Technical College said, “There are just ways we need to think about the value of work in this society that I think we have gotten a little bit off track on."

It's part of a new growth model for the United States, driven by production and innovation rather than excessive consumption and debt.

Katz said the U.S. government has been largely absent in that transformation, so it must be led locally, like the Louisville-Lexington BEAM partnership.

“That is very rare in this country. It's more common in Europe frankly.  So, you’re experimenting with something here, led by your two mayors, Mayor Fischer and Mayor Gray, which we think is going to be an example for the rest of the country,” Katz said.

BEAM is helping coordinate employers like Westport Axle to take the lead on training the students of today to be the workforce of tomorrow.

Sharpe said, “We need to educate the educators about what we need so that they can provide the curriculum with us behind them helping them build that so that when they do come to us, they can hit the ground running and be successful.

Most all-metropolitian areas across the country are talking about these same ideas. That's why local economic development officials said it's important for Kentucky to take the lead and be ahead of the game.