ASHLAND, Ky. — Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs said the agency must now focus on the “follow up” stage after he and Alliance Vice President Amanda Clark, executives with Braidy Industries, Kentucky Power and One East Kentucky, and Gov. Matt Bevin traveled to France to sell Kentucky at the Paris Air Show.
The Ashland Alliance representatives spent the full week – June 19 to June 25 – at the colossal aviation showcase, where the world’s largest providers of military and civilian aircraft, including Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin, flaunted their products to hundreds of international tycoons and delegations.
The Kentucky group held 23 recruitment meetings – including 13 with CEOs of major aerospace and defense companies – over a four-day span, Gibbs said.
The group touted the Bluegrass as the No. 2 aerospace exporter in the U.S., and a state with low production and energy costs.
Bevin, one of 11 U.S. governors to make the trip, was joined by state Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill in Paris. Craig Bouchard, the CEO of Braidy Industries, which plans to open a $1.3-billion aluminum mill in Greenup County in 2020, along with three other Braidy executives, made pitches to potential customers and partners.
Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite and External Affairs Manager Brad Hall presented companies with data on energy consumption and industrial rates. Chuck Sexton, president of One East Kentucky, which represents nine counties, also made the trip to lobby for eastern Kentucky.
Gibbs said the meetings were “not only productive” but “could change our area for the next 50 years.”
“We were able to show them quantitative data, and what we can offer that others can’t,” said the third-year Alliance president and CEO. “It felt like we were fishing with dynamite.”
The Alliance, like most rural-area economic development agencies in the U.S., had never taken part in the Paris Air Show. Gibbs cited momentum generated by the Braidy Industries announcement and the state’s explosive rise in the aerospace industry as reasons to make the trip.
“We have a big responsibility right now. We’ve got to make this halo last as long as possible,” said Gibbs.