By Christina Sturgis
Kentucky recently ranked near the bottom of a list of innovative states by Bloomberg, trailing far behind states with better numbers in STEM or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Bloomberg analyzed the number of utility patents, gross productivity per person, percentage of graduates with degrees in science or technology, the percentage of professionals in those fields and the proportion of state spending on research and development. The report put Kentucky 45th in a 51-place ranking that counts the District of Columbia as a state.
The most innovative state is Washington, where 2.82 percent of adults are STEM professionals and 9.51 graduates hold degrees in those academic disciplines. Bloomberg ranked Washington, California and Massachusetts first, second and third for innovation, not surprising for states that are home to Microsoft, Silicon Valley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Washington State is widely viewed as a technology center because of Internet retailer Amazon, based in Seattle and computer software giant Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond. That is driving many to consider finding a new home in the state.
Kentucky has 1.34 percent STEM professionals and 4.77 percent STEM degree holders, for an overall ranking above Nevada, Louisiana, Tennessee, Wyoming, Mississippi and Arkansas.
Kentucky’s relatively poor showing is reason for concern, not despair, for Gov. Steve Beshear. In his State of the Commonwealth address, Beshear said chromic poor health, lack of education and unemployment are longstanding problems, which the Blue Grass State has begun to solve.
He touted the rise of automobile manufacturing as proof that Kentucky has more to offer the nation than bourbon and horseracing. In 2013, Kentucky became the third highest auto-producing state after Michigan and Ohio, he said. Toyota will produce the Lexus ES 350 in Georgetown and Ford will build the all-new 2015 Lincoln MKC in Louisville, he said, addressing the state legislature in Frankfort.
Franklin County has higher rates of education and lower rates of poverty than Kentucky as a whole, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.