Walk around the campus of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and you will encounter an ultra-modern library complete with the latest on-line digital technologies empowering students by putting a whole world of knowledge at their fingertips. It cost millions of dollars courtesy of Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), who knows a thing or two about channeling federal money to the home folks. “I know some of you up there in Washington call this pork,” said the Marshall official who showed me around, “but to us, it’s a really great library.”
Keep walking around the Marshall campus and you will encounter another “pork” project – the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing. Founded in 1990, the RCBI introduces new concepts to manufacturers in “teaching factories” where manufacturing companies and their workers can obtain hands-on experience and training with computer-controlled mills, lathes and other state-of-the-art technologies.
A recent study found that the RCBI was directly responsible for bringing more than 1,000 highly skilled and higher paying jobs to the region and adding $290 million in output to state companies using its services. (A .pdf summary of study is available here.)
The Mountain State is chock full of Senator Byrd’s largess, and certainly not every project is viable. But some of them – like the two mentioned here – are sound investments in the future.
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