Braidy Industries announces $1.3B for new aluminum plant in Greenup County

04/26/2017 04:19 PM

UPDATED WURTLAND — Braidy Industries will invest $1.3 billion in a new Greenup County facility that its chief executive officer says will create high-quality, low-cost aluminum and employ hundreds in northeastern Kentucky.

State and company officials announced the endeavor Wednesday, saying the 2.5 million square foot plant will make aluminum products for auto and aerospace manufacturers as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard said the Delaware-based company will employ 550 workers with average pay of about $70,000 per year at the new facility, which will be built in South Shore and ultimately produce an estimated 20 percent of sheet aluminum for carmakers.

The small town on the Ohio River beat 24 other prospective locations for the plant, and he hopes construction will begin in the first few months of 2018, with about 1,000 workers needed in the building phase. The facility is expected to produce more than 300,000 tons of aluminum per year, and Gov. Matt Bevin said that number could climb as high as 500,000 tons annually.

Bouchard credited the General Assembly’s passage of a right-to-work bill, House Bill 1, during this year’s legislative session and said prospective locations in Kentucky would not have made the cut without the new law.

“If Kentucky was not a right-to-work state, you wouldn’t have gotten on the list because it’s so important to us,” he said.

Braidy Industries also received a boost from an 11th-hour bill approving up to $15 million in economic incentives for the company, whose identity was not disclosed at the time because Braidy Industries was still deciding between Kentucky and another state.

“That was magnificent,” Bouchard said. “That really made a difference for us.”

Before Wednesday’s news conference, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved up to $10 million in incentives for the project over a period of 15 years.

Bevin, among officials who welcomed the company to Greenup County on Wednesday, said the incentives weren’t necessary to lure Braidy Industries to Kentucky, but he said he wanted to show that the state would put “skin in the game” for the project.

“If in fact they reach their goals, then you’re going to see that $15 million investment — which again is not money they get to keep; it’s money the state has invested alongside them in this deal — will be worth as much as $250 million,” the governor told reporters after the press conference. “That’s not hypothetical. That is a distinct possibility.”

He credited Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, for their leadership in getting the economic development package through the legislature in its closing days this year.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Bevin predicted that Braidy Industries’ move to Greenup County would create “a ripple effect” in the region and state, and he said the company’s decision might “the most singularly transformative economic development decision that has ever been made in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

“There is not enough supply to keep up with the demand that is being asked of this industry in America,” Bevin said. “As we move more and more toward automobiles, and of course aviation has always been there, but we continue to look for stronger, lighter materials, these are the very things that are going to be supplied out of this region.”

Bouchard said the area’s proximity to potential customers and its background in steel manufacturing helped make it an attractive location, as did recent layoffs at AK Steel in nearby Ashland last year. He said the company is working with the community college system to help train prospective employees, who will start as interns and need to maintain a B average and “a good work ethic.”

“Are they ready? No,” Bouchard told press. “Will they be ready? Yeah. We’ve got two years to make them ready.”

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, attended Wednesday’s announcement and said the new facility will be a “tremendous” addition to a struggling region.

But he downplayed Bouchard’s comments regarding the state’s right-to-work law, which passed on a 58-39 vote that saw some Republicans joining Democrats in opposition, including Reps. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, and Jill York, R-Grayson, who represent districts in northeastern Kentucky.

“I heard what the CEO said, but I also heard what he followed it up with quickly,” Adkins told Spectrum News. “He followed it up after he said that and said I love this community. This community reminds me of when I was a kid where I grew up. This community seemed to be home to me.

“The location of the site, it has river, it has rail, and I think the deciding factor that he followed up with very quickly was that the quality of workforce that he knows is here. The steelworkers that have been laid off. The kind of workforce that he has to have to make that quality product that he’s going to make in this plant that he’s getting ready to construct here.”

Bouchard, however, said right-to-work, in which unions are barred from collecting fees from non-members, was imperative to give his company flexibility with its future employees.

“You want a workforce that may get to go home early on Thursday afternoon because they’re working all of Sunday because Ford Motor asked us to, and if you’ve ever done something like that, throw all those work rules out,” he told reporters.

“We’re a team, we’re going to work together, we’re going to produce great stuff together, and everybody’s going to benefit, and labor unions are somewhat restrictive when it comes to such things, so right-to-work matters.”


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