Hope’s light burns brightly in eastern Kentucky with Braidy Industries leading the way to reverse decades of economic decline.
Last spring, Democrats and Republicans alike, unanimously and wisely voted 98-0 to authorize a lifeline for the eastern portion of the state in the form of direct investment in a private company that would create 500 much-needed jobs. The bill vote was to increase the amount of funding to the Kentucky Economic Development Loan Pool from $7 million to $22 million, as stated in the law, for the “sole purpose of facilitating a private sector investment of not less than $1 billion.”
In fact, Braidy Industries is rapidly moving forward with its plans to invest $1.3 billion and to create 1,000 near-term construction jobs and 550 permanent positions at completion of the mill.
Contrary to false and misleading statements in The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader, the bill itself did not make an authorization for the Commonwealth’s direct investment in Braidy Industries as a private company. Commonwealth Seed Capital, LLC (CSC), which did make the investment, was specifically created long before Braidy Industries for the purpose of making direct investments in private, innovative businesses.
Our compelling business plan, seasoned executive team, and the level of investment and job creation justified an uplift in the typical funding amount, but not a deviation to any standard course of business or new authority. All states, including Kentucky, make investments in public and private projects for the benefit of the citizens. This is not new ground; recruiting new businesses is a very competitive endeavor; sensationalizing one such investment is irresponsible and disingenuous.
Further, the recent unfounded attack on our CEO in both The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader was both a surprise and a disappointment. Both papers have insinuated that Craig Bouchard’s prior company, Real Industry, was troubled at his departure or due to his tenure. In fact, the opposite is true. At the time of Mr. Bouchard’s departure from Real Industry in August 2016, the company had a market capitalization of $275 million, a stock price of $8.17 per share and a strong B2 credit rating from S&P and Moody’s.
Following a disagreement with the Real Industry board of directors on the topic of forward growth strategy, Mr. Bouchard chose to resign and ultimately to pursue his vision of building a greenfield aluminum mill, which project was ultimately won by eastern Kentucky. Upon the announcement of his resignation from Real Industry, the stock plunged.
Several reputable publications covered the news, reflecting the reaction of the Wall Street community to his departure, including Seeking Alpha’s article “Real Industry: CEO Loss Stings.” Now, over 1½ years after Mr. Bouchard’s departure, and following an acquisition made after his tenure, Real Industry lost its credit insurance and liquidity. They are now being reorganized.
Although we have received unanimous bipartisan political support for our mission in eastern Kentucky, Braidy Industries takes no political position itself. We are for one thing: the economic recovery and gainful employment of the people of eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian region. The accomplishment of this goal takes steady focus, tremendous effort and courage in the face of challenging circumstances.
The senseless attacks of wild and irresponsible speculation on the part of The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader are damaging to our good work and harmful to the people in eastern Kentucky who already struggle with the devastation of decades of economic decline and neglect. It creates an unfriendly and discouraging business climate that few other companies would care to enter, most unfortunately including those that we have been actively working to recruit to join us in creating a cluster for advanced manufacturing at our East Park location.
We hope that our transparency and commitment to the truth will serve its highest purpose as we continue to fight for the families in our community as we progress forward in building our mill and that these publications will report fairly and responsibly in the future – and not succumb to the creative destruction of everything.
Blaine D. Holt, Brigadier General (ret), USAF, is chief operating officer of Braidy Industries