Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith-R, Hazard, spoke recently about some possibilities currently being pursued that may bring more jobs to the area.
Smith informed attendees of a reception held in his honor Monday at the Harlan Center of some of these possibilities.
According to Smith, there is a possibility of retraining diesel mechanics to work on aircraft engines via software made available by Lockheed-Martin.
Smith stated the Kentucky Coal Academy has the capability to train people via computer simulations to work on any type of equipment.
“What we have talked to Lockheed-Martin about is sending us their software for our diesel mechanics that have been displaced… and teaching them how to work on their engines… taking somebody that worked on a Caterpillar or Cummings, and moving them over to work on a General Electric or Boeing or Lockheed-Martin engine. We could have those shipped here.”
Smith said warehouses and other facilities required for such work already exist in the region.
According to Smith, this would be a step toward replacing lost jobs.
“It’s a little bit different curve,” said Smith. “We’re constantly looking for ideas that are different. A diesel engine is one of the toughest things to be certified for. They tell us that’s the perfect fit for somebody to work on these motors that Lockheed-Martin has.”
In an interview following his speech, Smith elaborated on the idea.
“We have a fellow who is a pilot, and he has a connection through his family with Lockheed-Martin,” said Smith. “They were talking about how they had a shortage of mechanics that work on these engines. They were talking about having to send some of the stuff abroad to have it repaired.”
Smith said one of the best backgrounds to have in order to be trained to work on such engines is that of diesel mechanic.
“My overall goal, rather than just fixing pieces and parts on the motors, is sending entire motors here,” said Smith.
Smith pointed out new degree programs could be started in the community college system to supply such a new industry.
“We’ve already been offered the software,” said Smith.
Smith said he and his staff are looking into ways to fund the idea.
Smith also mentioned chemical looping, a process which allows energy to be extracted from coal without burning.
“Chemical looping is some of the greatest news for those of us in the coalfields,” said Smith. “It doesn’t ignite the coal, it’s a chemical reaction, so there is no smoke. There’s none of the problems that everybody complains about. So our question is now that we know this has been developed — it’s working in Alabama, they’re putting a 250 kilowatt plant in there — Kentucky needs to get on board.”
Smith said he has put together a group of investors to speak with Dr. L.S. Fan, the inventor of the process, about using southeast Kentucky coal to supply power to the region.
“You can see from those two approaches we’re looking through a very different lens,” said Smith, “from going from coal mining to mechanical engineering and engine repair on Lockheed-Martin. to doing chemical looping here in the coalfields to make our own power.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, email@example.com