Northeastern Kentucky (the triangular-shaped wedge of land to the east of I-75 and north of I-64) has been hit hard in recent years with news of plant closures and job loss. In 2015 AK Steel in Ashland eliminated nearly 800 positions; nearby Kentucky Electric steel announced closure last year. Over the past three years Pentair, Regal Beloit, and Lexington Metal Systems have announced closures of their Mt Sterling facilities, affecting nearly 1,000 workers. Hundreds lost jobs when manufacturing operations ceased at Brownings/Emerson/Regal in Maysville five years ago. The ramifications of the closure of Killen and Stuart Stations by DPL/AES will no doubt be felt in our area for years.
Meanwhile, during the same timeframe, another triangular-shaped wedge of land in our state to the north of I-64 and west of I-75 (the “golden” triangle) has experienced unprecedented levels of economic investment. Toyota and Amazon have announced investments north of $1 billion each. Jefferson, Fayette, Kenton, Scott, Boone, and Campbell were all among the top ten counties in terms of dollars invested in Kentucky during that span. Many were left wondering why that part of the state kept getting good economic news, but we kept receiving bad news. Were our people not smart enough? Did we not deserve it? Maybe we were simply being overlooked … unlucky enough to be right in the transition area between high-priority coal counties and the more metropolitan areas of Lexington and Louisville? When were we going to get a chance?
Friday it was finally our turn for some good news. Braidy Industries, who last year announced plans to build a $1.3 billion dollar aluminum mill in the area, broke ground of their facility at EastPark Industrial Complex on the Greenup/Boyd county line. One dip of a golden, commemorative shovel in the Kentucky soil represented a changing of the tide. Surrounded by hundreds of guests and curious onlookers, CEO Craig Bouchard and his executive team literally, and figuratively, drew a line in the dirt economically-speaking. And because of their confidence and investment here, our region will economically never be the same.
Braidy’s leadership is convinced that the people of our region can produce world-class products and that a high-tech metals company can thrive in rural Kentucky. And they are putting their money where their mouth is to prove it by building the second-most expensive manufacturing facility in our state’s history. In addition to creating 550 full-time jobs that will pay, on average, a salary of $70,000, they are also helping to create hundreds of skilled trades jobs thru 2020 during the mill construction phase.
Our ‘wedge’ of Kentucky is ready for an economic revival. Braidy’s investment will only mean good things for the rest of our region. Tier I/II/III suppliers for the EastPark mill will look to locate in the area to support Braidy. Each of those business partners will invest in brick and mortar facilities and in the people of our region to run those plants. The ripple effect of this announcement will be felt for decades.
Economic change is coming to our region, but this time it’s good news. Let’s show the world what we can do when it’s our turn to shine.