Luallen: Coal 'still matters' in East Ky. but region needs an new economic-education strategy

05/06/2013 09:33 AM

It’s time for business and political leaders to focus on a joint economic and education strategy that can diversify industries in Eastern Kentucky and keep college graduates in the area, said Crit Luallen, the former state auditor and potential Democratic candidate for governor.

“Coal still matters in Kentucky. And it will be a part of the mix. But it is changing,” Luallen said in the first minute of the interview

And because of that change, Eastern Kentucky needs new economic opportunities.

“It’s not enough to just get more education into the region,” she said. She said she’s seen statistics showing that two-thirds of Eastern Kentuckians who earn college degrees are leaving the region.

“We have to marry our educational strategies with an economic strategy that really tries to build more businesses from within, teaches more entrepreneurial skills,” she said.

Eastern Kentucky also has been battling the scourge of drug addition, which Luallen acknowleged has created an image problem for what would be an ideal workforce (3:00 of the interview.)

“I think anyone who has a successful business there or has come there and invested in the region would say that the work ethic of the workforce there is very good, very strong,” she said.

And breaking the cycle of drug abuse and poverty means refocusing of the state’s priorities away from treating symptoms. (4:30)

“I have seen more and more that Kentucky spends too much on the problem at the expense of the solution,” Luallen said, noting the increasing spending on state prisons and corrections as well as the Medicaid program that covers health care for the poor and disabled.

Luallen also offered her take on the ongoing challenges with the managed care set-up of Medicaid (7:30 of the interview) and her take on whether Kentucky could lose out on economic development opportunities if many more states approve gay marriage now that Rhode Island is becoming the 10th to do so (9:15 of the interview):


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