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Educated workers fuel manufacturing

Region’s training partnership of employers and educators keeps world-class products flowing

By Abby Laub

in April 2018, Toyota unveiled the newest addition to its successful vehicle lineup when the all-new 2019 Avalon rolled off its production line in Georgetown. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky President Susan Elkington called it the “future of Toyota manufacturing.”

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.

Soft drinks

Winchester – ale-8-one.com

Alltech Inc.

Natural animal feed additives

Nicholasville – alltech.com

Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.

Beer, bourbon and other spirits


Audio Authority

Media switches


Barrel House Distillery

Moonshine, rum, vodka


Big Ass Solutions

Industrial ceiling fans


Buffalo Trace Distillery


Frankfort – buffalotrace.com

Bulleit Distilling Co.


Lawrenceburg – bulleitbourbon.com

Carhartt Inc.

Work clothing

Irvine – carhartt.com

Caterpillar Inc.

Tractor components

Danville – cat.com

Clark Material Handling Co.



Corning Display Technologies

Glass processes & products technology

Harrodsburg – corning.com

Country Boy Brewing

Craft beer

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

Bottled water

Wilmore – highbridgesprings.com


Commercial dishwashing equipment

Danville – hobartcorp.com

International Paper

Corrugated boxes


Jim Beam Brands


Frankfort – jimbeam.com

J.M. Smucker Co.

Jif peanut butter


Johnson Controls Inc.

Automotive foam pads


Kinetic Technologies

Animal, human supplements


Laura’s Lean Beef

Natural beef products



Liquid dryers

Richmond – lectrodryer.com

Link-Belt Construction Equipment Co.

Telescopic & lattice boom cranes


Lockheed Martin

Military operations logistics support


Lore Brewing Co.

Craft beer

Danville – lorebrew.com

Lucas Equine Equipment

Stall components, farm gates

Cynthiana – lucasequine.com

Mingua Beef Jerky

Paris – minguabeefjerky.com

Nacco Materials Handling Group

Lift trucks

Berea – nmhg.com

Neogen Corp.

Food & animal safety products


Old Kentucky Candies


Osram Sylvania

Fluorescent/tungsten halogen lamps

Versailles/Winchester – sylvania.com

Parker Seal

Engineered o-rings


Pittsburgh Glass Works


Berea – pgwglass.com

Q-Lighting Inc.

Commercial lighting solutions


Quillin Leather & Tack

Equine halters & equipment

Paris – quillin.com

Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory

Frankfort – rebeccaruth.com

Red Wing Shoe Co.

Work boots

Danville – redwingshoes.com


Paperboard folding boxes

Nicholasville – rocktenn.com

Rocky Top Log Furniture & Railing

Log furniture & railing

Lancaster –rockytoplogfurniture.com

Rogers Windows



Ruggles Sign Co.

Commercial signage

Versailles – rugglessign.com

Sargent & Greenleaf

Security locks

Nicholasville – sargentandgreenleaf.com

Schneider Electric

Square D electrical safety switches


Sharp’s Candies

Lexington – sharpscandies.com

Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp.

Automotive coatings/finishes

Richmond – sherwin-automotive.com

Tiffany & Co.

Luxury jewelry


Tokico Inc.

Brake & suspension systems

Berea – tokicousa.com

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky

Automobiles, engines

Georgetown – toyotageorgetown.com

Trane Commercial Systems

Air systems


Trim Masters Inc.

Automotive interior trim






Intraocular lenses


Vermont Castings Group

Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves

Paris – vermontcastings.com

Wausau Paper

Paper towels & tissues

Harrodsburg – wausaupaper.com

Webasto Roof Systems Inc.

Automotive sunroofs


Weisenberger Mills

Baking products

Midway – weisenberger.com

West Sixth Brewing Co.

Craft beer


Wild Turkey Distillery


Lawrenceburg –


Woodford Reserve Distillery

Versailles – woodfordreserve.com