ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins said even when northeastern Kentucky was experiencing frustrating economic years, lawmakers on both the state and local levels never stopped laying groundwork for the future.
EastPark Industrial Park was built near Interstate 64 along with a $50 million community technical college. Some critics, Adkins said, questioned the wisdom of the investment.
“Now,” he said, “EastPark’s dreams are coming true.”
Braidy Industries, which plans to build a $1.3 billion aluminum rolling mill that’s scheduled to be up and running in 2020, was the final piece of the puzzle.
The groundwork that had been laid in decades past is what made the region attractive to Braidy Industries Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Craig Bouchard to make a long-term investment. Braidy’s corporate headquarters are in downtown Ashland, and Bouchard says that’s where they are staying.
“I asked one of his management team if it was the foundation that attracted him,” Adkins said. “He said ‘I wouldn’t call it a foundation. I’d call it a launching pad.’’’
A skilled workforce, transportation access, state incentives and a desire to break out of a 30-year economic slump put Ashland in an advantageous position, management executives said.
Adkins is excited about what Braidy brings to northeastern Kentucky not only in jobs – the company is promising to hire 550 employees to high-paying jobs of between $50,000 to 70,000 – but in its people that will make the community a better place to live.
“The more I meet with Braidy employees that Craig Bouchard has assembled, the more convinced, without question, I am about it being a game-changer for the region and for the state of Kentucky,” he said. “Satellite industries will end up at that facility to move that product. The transportation industry from barges to trains to trucks will benefit.”
Community leaders are practically giddy over the momentum that came with Braidy’s announcement last spring. Ten months later they are anxious for a groundbreaking that is scheduled for this spring.
The plant will eventually roll out 900,000 tons of aluminum sheet metal a year.
Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter said even after Braidy’s original plan of locating near South Shore fell through because of geological concerns, they stayed with northeastern Kentucky instead of looking in other potential areas that were in the running for the plant.
Carpenter said having the property available at EastPark made everything easier.
“Thank God we had that certified piece of property,” he said. “And that’s a good place to have it. Where we’re sitting now it looks like about 50/50 or 60/40 on Boyd County and Greenup County land.”
Carpenter, who had decided to retire and not run for re-election in Greenup County, is back on the ballot at the wishes of Bouchard. He is also running unopposed for the first time. “With Braidy being here, I’m glad to be able to play any small part in it,” he said.
Mark Johnson, the business manager for the Tri-State Building Trades Union, said he has been impressed with Bouchard. “I can’t say one bad thing,” he said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate Craig Bouchard a 15 or 20.”
Adkins said Bouchard has already been a “cheerleader and unbelievable recruiter” for the region. “He sees the value in the community and our unbelievable workforce. As a corporate citizen, I believe Craig Bouchard believes in us.”
Adkins said the region is fortunate Braidy Industries chose to set up shop here and that the state’s $15 million investment will reap the dividends.
“It’s our turn,” he said. “We’ve laid groundwork for the last 30 years for our region to be as competitive as any other region in the state.”