ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard took 45 minutes on Wednesday morning to encourage and enlighten potential future employees of the Braidy Atlas aluminum rolling mill.
More than 110 students in the Advanced Integrated Technology program at Ashland Community & Technical College listened intently to Bouchard for 45 minutes. He told them 10,000 applications had been taken for the plant’s 600 jobs, calling it a “tough, tough environment.”
“Now for the good news,” Bouchard said. “Guess who’s at the front of that line? Everybody sitting in this room.”
The associate degree program was developed especially for Braidy and equips graduates for a manufacturing environment. Students are in the second semester of the program.
“If you can get the employee to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, it will make for a much more successful plant,” said Mike Tackett, the coordinator for the Advanced Integrated Technology program.
The room was full of age diversity and included mostly men but also a few women for jobs that, in the past, was mostly directed to men.
“I tell ladies all the time, they need to look at the big picture,” Tackett said. “Men are getting into nursing and teaching. There’s no reason at all they can’t get into this. We have some good ones.”
Tackett said the company has put a successful program in motion by not only adding general education requirements but additional skills and value classes including Bible studies and interpersonal communication.
“What Braidy has asked us to do, I think they’re geniuses,” Tackett said.
Bouchard said whoever makes it through the program will have to work for it, but the rewards are potentially very big.
“If you work hard in here, if you do well, if you’re got sort of a really great team-playing attitude, if your strong as an individual and want to really succeed and do well and commit yourself to what you’re doing, you’ve got a good job here and a good future,” he said. “If you don’t fit into anything of those things, or if you’re stuck in the opioid crisis, or any of those negative things, then you don’t have a future with us.”
The 600 who do become workers at the plant will start around $65,000, the company has said.
Along with that, Bouchard said, are quarterly bonuses that, by the second year if estimates hold up, could reach around $30,000 annually.
He said the 600 jobs isn’t the end of the story either. Bouchard said Braidy is negotiating with between 10 to 12 companies in aerospace and automotive industries about locating around the mill property.
“We’re going to pick up five of them,” he said. “We know who the finalists are. People are coming to our door every day.”
Bouchard said in addition to the 600 jobs, he estimated another 1,200 to 1,500 jobs could come from those companies fighting for a spot alongside the mill. All of them, he said, would have access to Braidy’s HR umbrella.
“My view of the future here is just absolutely, completely bright,” he said.
Bouchard said when the plant opens it will be the low-cost producer of sheet aluminum in the United States and “not by a small margin.”
Bouchard said the key to developing a successful plant comes in the planning.
“We’ve done everything I hoped we could do,” he said. “When I say that, it’s easy to build stuff; I’ve built a lot of things. It’s not easy to build stuff well. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Bouchard said 90 percent of the work is done up front.
“The way you succeed in a project like we have here is you plan, plan, plan perfect,” he said. “We’ve spent $35 million so far making that plan and we’re not done. It’s literally got to be perfect. When you do that, all that work up front, when you build, you can build on time.”
The company has said the plant has an operational opening date of 2021. "We will open up...two years or so from now into a great, great market from an economic perspective," he said.
Bouchard was careful about talking specific finances because of Security and Exchange Commission filings. "Our efforts to finance our company have gone spectacularly well," he said. "Beyond my expectations....and we will have good news about that in some period of time."
As for the “naysayers,” Bouchard had an answer.
“Everybody is and has been generally complimentary but there are some naysayers and ,I say to that, ‘Bring it on!’ If you don’t have naysayers, you’re not doing everything right. It’s OK. How do you win that battle? You just execute – on time, on plan, on budget – and then they all go away. I don’t care about them. I do care about everybody sitting in this room.”