FRANKFORT, Ky. — Less than two years after opening its Bowling Green plant, automotive parts manufacturer Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. will expand with a $42 million investment, bringing its total planned employment to 220 and overall Kentucky investment to $95 million, Gov. Matt Bevin announced Wednesday.
“This major expansion by Kobelco underscores that Kentucky is the nation’s leader in both aluminum and automotive-related production,” Gov. Bevin said. “As America’s engineering and manufacturing center of excellence, we will continue to support the growth and success of existing employers like Kobelco – through a strong business climate, low-cost energy rates, quick access to raw materials, proximity to key markets, and custom-designed workforce development programs.”
Kobelco executives plan to add a new melting furnace, extrusion press and fabrication equipment. Company leaders plan to start construction in January 2019 and start production in the expanded operation in the first half of 2020.
The plant manufactures aluminum bumper and sub-frame materials. Automakers increasingly want aluminum parts as they seek to lighten their vehicles to meet tightening federal fuel economy and emissions standards.
Kobe Steel, Kobelco’s corporate parent, initially announced the Warren County plant in mid-2016 and built it near an existing sister plant, Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products LLC (KAAP) on Central Avenue in the South Central Kentucky Industrial Park. The Kobelco facility opened in February 2017.
“Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. was established in April 2016 using our technology from Japan, and with the cooperation of Kentucky officials, our customers, and all the employees working at Kobelco, we were able to successfully begin mass production here in the US,” said Hiroaki Matsubara, Kobe Steel senior managing executive officer. “And now, supported by even more robust demand for our products, we are proud to announce that we will be making our second major investment in our operations in less than two years. With that, our aim is to continue to make our contribution to the weight reduction of automobiles and to further develop our business footprint in the Bowling Green facility.”
Founded in 1905 and headquartered in Kobe and Tokyo, Kobe Steel operates worldwide under the KOBELCO brand. The company added aluminum and copper to its lineup of businesses in 1917. With numerous corporate subsidiaries, Kobe now offers a diverse range of products and services including steel, welding materials, industrial machinery, infrastructure and plant engineering services, construction equipment and electric power supply. Kobe employs over 37,000 people at more than 100 locations around the world.
KAAP, the sister facility in Bowling Green, opened in 2005 and produces forged suspension components for cars and SUVs. That plant employs about 500 people. In spring 2017 KAAP announced a $53 million expansion – the facility’s seventh – adding 129 jobs.
Sen. Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green, said continued growth will allow the region to remain a leader in the automotive industry.
“I’m pleased to hear that Kobelco has decided to continue to invest and expand in Bowling Green,” Sen. Wilson said. “Adding to their existing facility will help ensure that West Kentucky continues to be a leader in aluminum and automotive parts manufacturing.”
Rep. Jim DeCesare, of Bowling Green, said pro-business legislation has begun to pay off across the commonwealth and locally.
“Kentucky continues to prove itself as the best place in the country for the manufacturing and aluminum industries to grow,” Rep. DeCesare said. “In the past two years, Kentucky has implemented pro-growth policies that are reaping huge rewards in the form of major jobs creation, particularly right here in Warren County. This expansion is great news for our entire region, and I look forward to more of the same success.”
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon praised the company’s decision.
“We are very proud that Kobelco has chosen to expand their current operation at our South Central Kentucky Industrial Park,” Judge-Executive Buchanon said. “They are leading the growing industry of vehicle “light-weighting” and we are enthusiastic about their continued advancement here in Warren County.”
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said both the city and Kobelco will benefit from the company’s growth.
“Bowling Green’s aluminum industry is thriving and Kobelco has taken advantage of this growth, and has capitalized on the opportunities provided here,” Mayor Wilkerson said. “We are excited to see their continued success and appreciate their impact on our local economy here in South Central Kentucky.”
Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the expansion.
“It’s always exciting when a first-class company like Kobelco surpasses their initial investment and job creation here in Bowling Green,” Bunch said. “The impact 90 more full-time jobs will have on Warren County will improve the quality of life for many in our community.”
Kobelco currently has two performance-based incentive agreements from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which are designed to encourage investment and job growth for the state.
In addition, Kobelco can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. In fiscal year 2017, the Kentucky Skills Network provided training for more than 120,000 Kentuckians and 5,700 companies from a variety of industry sectors.
For more information on Kobe, visit www.Kobelco.co.jp/english/.
A detailed community profile for Warren County can be viewed here.