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A large contingent of business leaders from the Big Sandy region attended the Fuel the Force rally on Thursday, February 18 in Frankfort.  Shown are: One East Kentucky CEO Chuck Sexton, Rusty Justice, KCTCS President Dr. Jay Box and Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College.

The vice-chair of the Big Sandy Community and Technical College board of directors was one of the keynote speakers of a statewide rally on Thursday, February 18 in the Capitol rotunda.

Rusty Justice, managing partner of Jigsaw Enterprises and BitSource, is selected as one of three chairs of the Kentucky Community and Technical College Systems (KCTCS) Business Champions Council.

Investments in community and technical colleges are like the mining industry, said Justice. When times are tough, you cut your high-cost production mines and remain engaged in coal that costs less to produce. Community and technical colleges are affordable, effective and essential to community, workforce and economic development.

Justice was elected as one of the tri-chairs of the KCTCS Business Champions Council along with Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks and Dennis Johnson, president and CEO of Hardin Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of BSCTC, said Justice truly exemplifies the purpose of community and technical colleges in rural America.

Justice attended Prestonsburg Community College, now BSCTC, before earning a degree in engineering from the University of Kentucky.

Our college invested in Rusty, and he has reinvested in our institution time and time again, whether it be through utilizing our workforce development programs for his employees or his service to our board of directors, said Dr. Stephenson. Im proud that we have leaders of Rustys caliber willing to work to keep Big Sandy Community and Technical College thriving.

Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that has not begun to reinvest in higher education since the end of the recession. The Governors proposed budget reductions will put Kentucky further behind and significantly impact the colleges ability to produce the highly skilled workforce necessary to compete for new business and industry and the expansion of existing companies. If the governors proposed cuts of $17 million are instituted on top of the $39 million KCTCS has been cut since 2008, this will create a total cut of $56 million.

BSCTCs state appropriation has been cut 22 percent, or $1.9 million since 2008. If the Governors proposed budget passes, it will cut an additional 9 percent, or more than $700,000.