ASHLAND, Ky. – A company that carries the hope and future of northeastern Kentucky on its back, put on a groundbreaking ceremony worthy of its fanfare at the EastPark Industrial Center on Friday.
Braidy Industries, which announced 13 months ago it was building a $1.5 billion aluminum rolling mill, had its ceremonial start of construction with around 1,000 onlookers celebrating alongside Gov. Matt Bevin, elected officials and business leaders who were signaling it as the beginning of an economic revival in the area. The Braidy party continued into the night with a star-studded country concert in downtown Ashland that included Naomi Judd and Tanya Tucker.
“There’s something a little contagious about it,” Bevin said of the Braidy effect. “That’s the beauty of what we have here. What we’re hearing here, the sounds around us, this is what hope sounds like. The feeling that we have, the enthusiasm, the joy in our hearts, this is what hope feels like. What we see around us, the freshly turned dirt, this is what hope looks like. Hope is a powerful, powerful thing. Hope is what changes everything.”
Before Braidy Industries announced its arrival last March that is was going to build an aluminum mill that would bring 550 high-paying, permanent jobs to the region, the economy was in the tank. The groundbreaking came two and a half years after AK Steel laid off more than 600 workers from its Ashland Works plant and CSX cut back on workers. It follows three decades of overall decline in Eestern Kentucky coal jobs, a workforce Braidy intends to tap.
The 1.8 million-square-foot facility will rise from more than 240 acres in the EastPark Industrial Center near Ashland. As scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2020, the mill’s production capacity could reach 300,000 tons of aluminum alloy sheet and plate a year, mainly for the automotive industry. Opportunities for future production expansion exist, as well as plans to supply the aerospace and defense industries. The company is already sold out for its first seven years, said Braidy CEO and Chsairman Craig Bouchard.
Bevin said Braidy will “transform the economic landscape of eastern Kentucky for generations to come. “We are grateful to Braidy Industries for its decision to locate in Kentucky and we look forward to nurturing a strong corporate partnership in the years ahead.”