By Abby Laub
Central Kentucky’s businesses provide the world with such iconic goods as Toyota Camrys, Jif peanut butter, bourbon, Thoroughbreds and cranes as well as a slew of uniquely Bluegrass products like boots, windshields, bourbon balls and soda that keep the economy firing on all cylinders.
A key reason manufacturers choose to make their products in Central Kentucky is its workforce. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (better known as KY FAME) was founded in Central Kentucky about a decade ago and now has 11 chapters throughout the state with 125-plus participating companies. The regional chapters work to ensure their manufacturers have a steady supply of skilled workers ready to fill available jobs.
The program has developed into FAME USA with programs in nine states.
Employers collaborate with postsecondary educational institutions to grow their own talent. It all started on Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Georgetown campus, near Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. In conjunction with BCTC, the employer group developed a program through which employees would be paid to attend school to earn associate degrees in advanced manufacturing technology.
Donna Taul, Environmental Health & Safety manager at Florida Tile, Inc. in Lawrenceburg serves as president of FAME’s Bluegrass chapter and said KY FAME has made a difference.
“There has been a shortage of skilled workers especially in the areas of Industrial Maintenance and Tooling the last several years,” she said. “The KY FAME program has created a pipeline of skilled workers at an affordable cost for employers. This allows companies to remain competitive and meet business demands.”
FAME also works to sharpen and improve the skills of current employers.
“It provides the companies with cost-effective solutions to meet growing demands and invest in their workforce at the same time,” Taul said. “Employees in the Advanced Manufacturing Training Program receive on-the-job training, a technical education, critical work ‘soft skills’ and the opportunity for high pay after graduation.”
FAME continues to add specialized programs to meet the skilled labor demands of manufacturers in other areas including engineering and business, she said.
“New technology is creating more positions requiring skilled labor, Taul said.
One of KY FAME’s founding members, TMMK, continues growing and hiring; in 2016 it celebrated its 30th anniversary, and in 2017 it underwent $1.33 billion in upgrades. Millions of cars, most notably the Toyota Camry, have rolled off its lines. In 2017, Toyota built 1,983,723 vehicles at its North American vehicle assembly plants, including TMMK.
To continue manufacturing all these cars, TMMK is again stepping up to educate future manufacturing workers.
In May 2018, together with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), TMMK awarded $150,000 in grants to 11 K-12 schools in Central Kentucky to help prepare students for the next generation of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. The grants, funded by the Toyota USA Foundation, provide a curriculum focused on computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, while helping create engaging, hands-on classrooms for students.
“As an engineer and someone who loves science, creating opportunities for more students to explore STEM education is exciting,” TMMK President Susan Elkington said in a news release. “But there is also an urgent and critical need to get more young people interested in STEM. Investing in programs like Project Lead The Way and developing partnerships with local schools is an important step in preparing Kentucky’s next generation of thinkers and doers for the jobs of the future.”
Last year, PLTW received a $2 million grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to support approximately 115 K-12 schools throughout the United States.
And in April TMMK unveiled the newest addition to a strong stable of vehicles at TMMK: the all-new 2019 Avalon, built on its Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) manufacturing platform.
Other than TMMK, Central Kentucky hosts a vibrant and diverse scene of manufacturers. These creators benefit from the region’s proximity to prime logistics, available land and a low cost of doing business.
Lockheed Martin, the Maryland-based global security company, employees about 1,100 workers at its Bluegrass Station facility in eastern Fayette County. Trane Lexington, which manufactures air heating and cooling parts and systems, employs about 1,000 workers. Lexington-based Big Ass Solutions, which produces low-energy, high-volume industrial ceiling fans, employs hundreds of workers locally at its plant and research headquarters.
Newcomer on the scene is More Than A Bakery in Woodford County. It opened its $57 million, 250,000-s.f. food production facility last year.
Here are more manufacturing operations in Central Kentucky:
Post-it products, Scotch Tape (Cynthiana)
Ceramic inserts for bullet proof vests (Lexington)
Cynthiana – 3m.com
Ale-8-One Bottling Co.
Winchester – ale-8-one.com
Natural animal feed additives
Nicholasville – alltech.com
Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.
Beer, bourbon and other spirits
Barrel House Distillery
Moonshine, rum, vodka
Big Ass Solutions
Industrial ceiling fans
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Frankfort – buffalotrace.com
Bulleit Distilling Co.
Lawrenceburg – bulleitbourbon.com
Irvine – carhartt.com
Danville – cat.com
Clark Material Handling Co.
Corning Display Technologies
Glass processes & products technology
Harrodsburg – corning.com
Country Boy Brewing
Lexington & Georgetown – countryboybrewing.com
Denyo Manufacturing Corp.
High-output diesel generators
Danville – denyo.co.jp/english
High-security locking solutions
Florida Tile Inc.
Porcelain & ceramic tile
Lawrenceburg – floridatile.com
Four Roses Distillery
Lawrenceburg – fourrosesbourbon.com
Dixie Cup cups & plates
Highbridge Spring Water
Wilmore – highbridgesprings.com
Commercial dishwashing equipment
Danville – hobartcorp.com
Jim Beam Brands
Frankfort – jimbeam.com
J.M. Smucker Co.
Jif peanut butter
Johnson Controls Inc.
Automotive foam pads
Animal, human supplements
Laura’s Lean Beef
Natural beef products
Richmond – lectrodryer.com
Link-Belt Construction Equipment Co.
Telescopic & lattice boom cranes
Military operations logistics support
Lore Brewing Co.
Danville – lorebrew.com
Lucas Equine Equipment
Stall components, farm gates
Cynthiana – lucasequine.com
Mingua Beef Jerky
Paris – minguabeefjerky.com
Nacco Materials Handling Group
Berea – nmhg.com
Food & animal safety products
Old Kentucky Candies
Fluorescent/tungsten halogen lamps
Versailles/Winchester – sylvania.com
Pittsburgh Glass Works
Berea – pgwglass.com
Commercial lighting solutions
Quillin Leather & Tack
Equine halters & equipment
Paris – quillin.com
Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory
Frankfort – rebeccaruth.com
Red Wing Shoe Co.
Danville – redwingshoes.com
Paperboard folding boxes
Nicholasville – rocktenn.com
Rocky Top Log Furniture & Railing
Log furniture & railing
Ruggles Sign Co.
Versailles – rugglessign.com
Sargent & Greenleaf
Nicholasville – sargentandgreenleaf.com
Square D electrical safety switches
Lexington – sharpscandies.com
Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp.
Richmond – sherwin-automotive.com
Tiffany & Co.
Brake & suspension systems
Berea – tokicousa.com
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky
Georgetown – toyotageorgetown.com
Trane Commercial Systems
Trim Masters Inc.
Automotive interior trim
US IOL Inc.
Vermont Castings Group
Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves
Paris – vermontcastings.com
Paper towels & tissues
Harrodsburg – wausaupaper.com
Webasto Roof Systems Inc.
Midway – weisenberger.com
West Sixth Brewing Co.
Wild Turkey Distillery
Woodford Reserve Distillery
Versailles – woodfordreserve.com