ASHLAND, Ky. – Braidy Industries will break ground on its $1.3 billion mill in Ashland on June 1, according to a Facebook post on CEO Craig T. Bouchard’s page Saturday.
Plans for the mill have been in the works since last April with northeastern Kentucky holding its collective breath until it becomes a reality. It’s expected to take about two years before the mill is operating, but the company already has enough product sold for the first seven years, Bouchard said.
An invitation has been extended to Gov. Matt Bevin and others for the ribbon-cutting that will be at the East Park Industrial Center that afternoon at 1 p.m. A celebration in downtown Ashland will follow that evening, Bouchard said.
“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage a sense of patience as well as excitement about our collective future,” he said in the post. “The mill will not magically appear overnight. It will take a couple of years to build 45 acres under roof with a half-billion dollars of brand new equipment inside. It will take a tremendous amount of work and dedication to excellence.”
The plant will be located on reclaimed coal mining land at East Park. Bouchard found some comfort in the plant being built where coal miners once worked.
“This gives me a warm and content feeling because the coal miners should feel a part of our future,” he said in the post. “They are great people to a one.”
Bouchard said the land will have to be moved, compressed and prepared to support the large machinery with the largest weighing in at about 200 tons.
“This compression will take a few months. Thus far, we have spent $14 million in engineering and preparation for the build. The secret to successful greenfield construction is impeccable planning. We are very good planners.”
It will be the first greenfield aluminum rolling mill built in the United States in more than four decades.
Bouchard said Brady will drill foundations to the bedrock and “then we will start to build the finest aluminum mill in the world.”
Braidy Industries was recently a finalist in four categories in the prestigious Platts Global Metals Awards competition. Veloxint Corporation, a company recently purchased by Braidy, was the winner for the Breakthrough Solution of the Year. Veloxint will produce its metals in East Park. Bouchard was a candidate for CEO of the Year while the company was also named a finalist for Aluminum Industry Leader of the Year and Rising Star of the Year.
Braidy is expected to make a giant economic impact on northeastern Kentucky with nearly 600 jobs available at the plant at an average of more than $60,000 per year. More than 5,500 job applications have been received.
“In Ashland, they’re knocking down the door to come work for us,” Bouchard told Automotive News. Also, other spinoff companies are expected to relocate or locate near Braidy’s plant, producing another 2,500 jobs, he said.
The mill is now 180 percent sold out from day one through the first seven years with 300,000 tons of sheet produced in Phase I, Bouchard said. Six of the largest OEM automakers are part of the customer base.
Northeastern Kentucky competed with 23 others for the rolling mill and the logistics favored Ashland, largely because of its skilled workforce and Kentucky’s tax incentives, along with low-cost electricity. The state has agreed to potentially provide more than $12 million in tax incentives to the company. Up to $10 million of those incentives are tied to hitting job numbers and wage targets over a 15-year period. The other $2.5 million in incentives is meant to offset taxes on construction materials.
Braidy’s arrival was welcome news to the economically depressed area. Once an employment hub, the Ashland area has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs, especially in the last 25 years. In 1998, Ashland Oil relocated to northern Kentucky. Three years ago, AK Steel laid off 600 workers. Two years ago, CSX Railroad sliced 100 jobs because of reduced traffic from the coal mines.