When I look back at my time serving as chief of staff to Govs. Brownback and Colyer, I feel a particular sense of pride when I reflect upon our achievements in two seemingly unconnected areas — working to better support our veterans and expanding our energy sector.
In an uncanny way, our work to implement a strong renewable portfolio in Kansas and efforts to marshal the creation of the Grain Belt Express Transmission Line project created countless career opportunities for veterans in Kansas’ newly expanded energy industry. In fact, the wind industry employs veterans at a rate higher than the national average.
I applaud the wind industry's efforts to hire veterans. As a veteran myself, I understand firsthand the challenges of finding a stable, well-paying job doing meaningful work once returning to civilian life.
Our skills, at least on paper, don't always appear to be transferable to the private sector. In our current economic climate, opportunity is more important than ever.
Wind techs make a median wage of nearly $53,000 per year, and it is the fastest-growing job in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth of our homegrown wind industry here in Kansas helped to shine a light on the need for better electricity transmission infrastructure.
The Grain Belt Express will enable up to $7 billion in electricity cost savings for Kansas and neighboring Missouri residents by 2045. The project has attracted $9 billion in economic investments, which will provide a stable source of revenue for communities.
The benefit I’m most proud of, however, is the thousands of new construction jobs and hundreds of manufacturing, project support and operations jobs created in its wake. When looking at new energy projects coming online, wind industry leaders know our nation’s heroes are equipped with skills that make them highly competitive and sought-after candidates for lucrative careers in wind energy.
I’m reminded that creating an opportunity for veterans to provide for themselves and their families after discharge is one of the best ways we can begin to repay our tremendous debt to them. The investment in clean energy and the countless careers it offers is an investment in the future of our veterans, our workforce and our communities.
Jon Hummell, of Topeka, is the national manager of state initiatives for Lexia Learning and former chief of staff to Kansas Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.