On trip to the capital, Northern Kentucky leadership advocates for key issues

During a two-day visit to Washington, D.C. last week, leaders from Northern Kentucky met with federal legislators and executives to discuss important issues and strengthen the region’s ties to the capital. Leadership from Northern Kentucky as well as Washington, D.C. stressed NKU’s indispensability for Kentucky’s economic development.

Brent Cooper, interim president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which organized the annual trip, emphasized the importance of connecting with decision makers in the capital: “It is important for us to have our voice heard in Washington, for them to hear our frustration and needs but also to hear our appreciation for the issues that they champion for us.”

In 2010, $4.3 million in federal funds, secured by Senator Mitch McConnell, enabled the construction of NKU’s College of Informatics.

One of the central topics during the trip to D.C. was the funding of a new Brent Spence Bridge. After tolls proved highly unpopular with the public in Northern Kentucky, local politicians have voiced their hopes in recent weeks, that the federal government would pay for the estimated $3 billion construction costs. However, legislators in D.C. said that it is highly unlikely that the federal government would fund the project.

The delegation that consisted of leaders across various industries, also addressed the heroin epidemic that Northern Kentucky faced in recent years. Data released by the Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) in February, shows that one-third of adults in Northern Kentucky reported knowing friends or family members who have experienced problems as a result of using heroin. Northern Kentucky leadership advocated for increased federal funding for new treatment facilities and discussed new prevention methods with members of the Center for Disease Control. Federal legislators, among them U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, promised their support in tackling the heroin problem.

The trip to the capital also served as a community-building measure in order to strengthen the ties across different industries in Northern Kentucky, such as transportation, banking or IT. Katie Herschede, who is the executive assistant to President Mearns and secretary to the Board of Regents, joined the group as a representative of NKU.

“It’s always good to be with other business leaders and to understand how all the different issues in Northern Kentucky connect,” Herschede said.

Talking about NKU’s status within the community, Herschede was convinced that NKU is important in bringing people from the area to the table to discuss current issues, thus using the university’s various resources to the benefit of the whole region.

Members of the delegation, as well as federal legislators, recognized the importance of education for the region. Senator Mitch McConnell praised Northern Kentucky University for its “good leadership” and acknowledged the big impact NKU has on the Greater Cincinnati area. Brent Cooper emphasized NKU’s vital role in developing an educated workforce for the region, which he said, “is the number one issue” in Northern Kentucky.

Herschede also took the time to meet with a group of NKU alumni, who now fill a variety of positions in the U.S. capital. As alumni would provide the network to help other NKU students to succeed in Washington, D.C., the “opportunity to stay connected with them is critical,” Herschede said.

Last week, the Kentucky legislature passed the state budget including $97 million to fund the building of a Health Innovation Center at NKU – a project, which the education and business community has advocated for many years. Herschede expressed satisfaction with the cooperation between law-makers and the education sector but also indicated that it is an ongoing process: “We need to continue to work with our legislature, both on a state and the federal level about what our priorities are and how important those priorities are for our 16,000 students.”