FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Paul Patton joined John Hall, retired chairman and CEO of Ashland, Inc.; Dr. Bill Brundage, commissioner of the Office for the New Economy; and Dr. Linda Johnson, president of the Center for Information Technology Enterprise, on Wednesday to announce the formation of a public/private partnership called ConnectKentucky.

Patton said the partnership is designed to assess and plan for Kentucky's participation in the networked world. Officials said if Kentucky is to be competitive in the New Economy, it must make certain that network use, network access and network infrastructure are proportioned for stable regional growth.

"Much as building an interstate, we must build this information highway to support the jobs and economic development of the future," said Gov. Patton. "ConnectKentucky will be the engineers to see that this highway assures Kentucky's leadership in the global economy."

Additional information about ConnectKentucky will be made available through the Office for the New Economy at and the Center for Information Technology Enterprise.

ConnectKentucky was a crucial component of a strategic plan, called "Kentucky Innovation," that was approved in January by the Kentucky Innovation Commission. Citizens across the commonwealth expressed their support for ConnectKentucky, which is a three-year statewide initiative.

"If Kentucky's New Economy initiative is to be successful over the next decade, growing the IT cluster is vital," said Dr. Brundage. "Currently, there are 1,432 IT businesses, with 34,500 workers, representing $1.4 billion in wages to Kentucky's economy. Continued expansion of this business cluster will help us all achieve our collective strategic objective of changing per capita income of Kentuckians during the next 20 years to at or near the national average."

The ConnectKentucky project will be coordinated by the Center for Information Technology Enterprise, Inc.

"We expect in the next few weeks to announce the additional steering committee members from the business community," said Dr. Linda Johnson, president of the Center for Information Technology Enterprise.