As speaker of the House, I was honored to attend an incredible public announcement Wednesday in Greenup County. Braidy Industries’ chief executive officer and chairman, Craig Bouchard announced his company will locate an aluminum rolling mill in Greenup County with a $1.3 billion investment that will create 550 permanent jobs, with an average salary of $38 an hour.
That number does not include the 1,000 construction workers it will require to build the 2.5 million-square-foot facility.
Bouchard chose Kentucky over 24 other states. Braidy Industries’ Kentucky plant will create the skin for automobiles and plate aluminum for airplanes, initially manufacturing around 370,000 tons of aluminum each year. The Greenup facility will produce 20 percent of all auto sheet aluminum in the United States, according to Bouchard.
The excitement during the announcement was palpable. You could feel the emotion as economic frustration was replaced by hope for a brighter future.
Eastern Kentucky has been beleaguered by disappearing jobs for at least a decade. Ashland Oil and AK Steel’s move to Cincinnati resulted in hundreds of layoffs. The loss of more than half of the region’s manufacturing and coal jobs is infamous. This new plant will be life-changing for eastern Kentuckians.
The Lexington Herald-Leader printed this monumental announcement on the front page. However, the Courier-Journal failed to even mention it in Thursday’s paper edition. How can a major economic development, affecting a region beset by enormous job losses, not be newsworthy to the largest newspaper in Kentucky?
Is it because the editors decided $1.3 billion and 1,550 jobs were of no interest to its more centrally-located readers? The potential turning-point for a struggling manufacturing sector in a state that is the third-largest auto producer isn’t of interest to the Courier’s circulation?
Ford Motor Co.’s Louisville plants have been located there since 1955 and employ over 12,000 people. Given Louisville’s history of auto manufacturing, you would think a potential major supplier coming to the state would be of interest to Louisville-area readers.
The Courier was certainly interested when the General Assembly passed the “mystery financing for Eastern Kentucky” legislation in March to ensure Braidy Industries could do business in Kentucky. It plastered the story on the front page. But, when the legislature’s “mystery authorization” of $15 million turns into $1.3 billion invested and 550 good-paying jobs for working-class Eastern Kentuckians, the Courier is silent.
Was the story dismissed because Bouchard touted Kentucky’s new “right-to-work” law as the reason he chose Kentucky? The Courier’s animosity to this piece of legislation is no secret and Bouchard was explicit in his reasoning.
Did the Courier-Journal want to downplay the announcement to avoid any positive publicity for Gov. Bevin and the Republican-controlled Kentucky House and Senate, who led the way on championing a bill which ensured financing for this very economic development?
I cannot definitively answer these questions. Only the editors at the Courier-Journal know why they went out of their way to avoid publishing this historic announcement in the pages of their newspaper. It was certainly a disservice to Kentuckians, who deserve to know of the significant and transformative progress being made in this great Commonwealth.
State Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, is speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.