By Abby Laub
Louisvillians know how to make things: bourbon, cars, appliances, baseball bats, you name it.
In fact, Louisville Forward says advanced manufacturing accounts for 17% of the regional GDP (to the tune of $11 billion), and the average annual compensation for a manufacturing worker is almost $71,000. In 2017, Forbes even named Louisville the No. 1 city in the United States where manufacturing is thriving.
It’s not hard to see why. One of the region’s primary manufacturers is Ford Motor Co.’s Louisville Assembly Plant. Louisville is home to the company’s largest presence outside of Detroit and is best known for producing Super Duty pickups, Lincoln Navigators and other trucks in its 6 million s.f. Kentucky Truck Plant space that employs almost 8,000 people.
In March 2019, Ford announced plans to increase production on the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and will add 550 jobs at the Kentucky Truck Plant and increase vehicle production by 20%. This follows up an announcement back in 2017 from Ford that it would invest $900 million in the Kentucky Truck Plant. The Expedition and Navigator are both full-size SUVs that will be exported to more than 55 markets globally.
And a new compact SUV from Lincoln – the 2020 Lincoln Corsair, formerly known as the Lincoln MKC, will be built at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant. It shares parts with the Ford Escape, which also is built in Louisville.
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The region’s automotive exports expand far beyond vehicles and include auto components manufacturers like Piston Automotive and many others. In April 2019, Piston announced plans to invest $1.5 million for an expansion of its Louisville operation, which will create 50 new full-time jobs on top of the 85 already there. The project will allow for the installation of a new production line and increased capabilities to support new market demand.
“Our investment in the Louisville facility is a direct result of growth with one of our key customers, Ford; the support we’ve received from the community; and the hard work our employees have put in to make Piston Automotive successful,” said Piston Group Chairman and Founder Vinnie Johnson at the announcement.
Winning recipe for food and beverage
Greater Louisville is also known globally as a food and beverage hotbed – both in the headquarters and manufacturing spaces.
It has a wide range of distilleries and craft distillers that contribute heavily to the state’s eye-popping bourbon production. Bourbon is an $8.6 billion signature industry in Kentucky, generating 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll of $1 billion. The state as a whole has a total inventory of 7.5 million barrels of bourbon – the highest inventory in more than 40 years.
The secret recipe for one of the world’s top brands, Kentucky Fried Chicken, is kept in a vault at its Louisville headquarters.
In nonalcoholic liquids, Greater Louisville is also known for things like beverage flavorings and colors, and countless other food and drink manufacturing operations.
In Jeffersonville, Ind., lNiagara Bottling announced ast July it will build a new 469,000-s.f. manufacturing and bottling facility on Logistics Avenue in the River Ridge Commerce Center.
The company is investing approximately $56 million in the project, including construction and equipment costs. Plans also call for the full-time employment of approximately 49 new workers at the new facility.
“We have been impressed by the region’s progressive workforce development programs and support system,” said Brian Hess, executive vice president for Niagara, in a press release.
It’s another example of the rapid growth of River Ridge – where dozens of manufacturers and offices already call home.
On the sweeter side, Cellar Door Chocolates, a premium chocolate confectionary company, announced in February a significant planned expansion of operations to meet growing demand. The company, which was originally established in 2007, is crafting a new headquarters, production facility and tasting room within the Heine Brothers’ Coffee corporate office and roastery building at 1301 W. Main St. in Louisville.
Cellar Door, known for its truffles, bourbon balls, brittle and caramels, will continue to operate its two retail studios in Butchertown and downtown Louisville.
“This building is going to be an amazing destination point in the Portland neighborhood,” said Cellar Door Chocolates Founder Erika Chavez-Graziano in a press release. “It has a vibe that you can only get from a turn-of-the-century building.”
Cellar Door plans to move into the new 12,000-s.f. space this fall, and will go from 14 to 18 full-time employees.
Part of the reason Greater Louisville has such success in the manufacturing space is because of its talented workforce and pipeline of workers. Creating a continued pipeline is essential, and the city works with various organizations such as Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center, Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) and local schools and universities.
According to Louisville Forward, the region’s manufacturing employment is a 20% greater share than the national average. Also, there are 14 major automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) within 250 miles of Louisville, creating an easy stream of products required to manufacture some of the region’s signature products – like the Ford/Piston example.
Continued manufacturing growth is expected in Louisville, and it’s expected to get even more high tech.
Contributing to that trend is the innovative FirstBuild, a makerspace dedicated to designing, engineering, building and selling the next generation of major home appliances and more. It is backed by GE Appliances. In October 2018, GE announced it will invest $200 million in upgrades to expand laundry and dishwasher manufacturing. Appliance Park in Louisville is GE Appliances’ largest manufacturing facility, with more than 5 million s.f. of production space.
Some of Louisville’s largest manufacturing firms include:
Algood Food Co.
American Printing House for the Blind
Braille & large type book printing
American Synthetic Rubber Co.
Reprocessed & synthetic rubber
Brown Forman Cooperage
Bourbon whiskey barrels
Distilled spirits headquarters
On-demand digital printing
Steel water tanks & towers
Aluminum extrusions, moldings
Lubricant blending, distribution
Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
Flour; frozen breakfast products
Dant Clayton Corp.
Grandstands, bleachers, seating
Dawn Food Products
Pie filling, icing, doughnut glazes
Faurecia Emission Control Technology
Auto exhaust systems
Interior automotive systems
Ford Motor Co. (KTP & LAP)
Super Duty Trucks, F-250, F-550, Expedition, Navigator, Escape
GE Appliance Park
Major household appliances
Grupo Antolin Kentucky
Automotive interior components
Hillerich & Bradsby Co. (Louisville Slugger)
Baseball/softball bats, museum
Various cookie products
Kentuckiana Curb Co.
Metal components, HVAC units
Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing
Koch Filter Corp.
Air filters, bags, cartridges
Mexican food products
NHK Spring Precision
Precision automotive springs
Corrugated packaging, boxes
Precision Metal Works
Sheet metal stamping; major appliance assembly
Packaging supplies, corrugated boxes
Defense weapons systems
Kitchen & bath convenience products; organizers
Reynolds Consumer Products
The Lyons Companies
Metal fabricating, store fixtures
Performance engineered panels
White Castle Distributing
Frozen hamburger processing
Yamamoto F B Engineering
Fine blanked parts (automotive)
Yanfeng Automotive Interiors
Injection molded plastic auto parts
Electric & sewage pumps
Manufacturers from the surrounding counties include:
Air filtration products
Jeffersonville, Ind. – airguard.com
Akebono Brake Corp.
Auto disc, drum brakes
Elizabethtown, Ky. – akebonobrakes.com
American Fuji Seal Inc.
Container shrink labels
Bardstown, Ky. – afseal.com
American Greetings Corp.
Bardstown, Ky. – americangreetings.com
Beach Mold & Tool Inc.
New Albany, Ind. – beachmold.com
Bemis Flexible Packaging
Packaging for food industry
Shelbyville, Ky. – bemis.com
Bowles Mattress Co.
Lady Americana mattresses
Jeffersonville, Ind. – bowlesmattress.com
Discount Labels Inc.
Labels, rubber stamps
New Albany, Ind. – discountlabels.com
Simpsonville, Ky. – faurecia.com
Jeffersonville, Ind. – freudenbergmedical.com
Pillsbury refrigerated dough
New Albany, Ind. – generalmills.com
Haas Cabinet Co. Inc.
Sellersburg, Ind. – haascabinet.com
New Albany, Ind. – indco.com
Automotive products (door/window)
Bardstown, Ky. – johanamerica.com
KACI (Katayama American Co. Inc.)
Automotive door sashes, moldings
Shelbyville, Ky. – kaci.com
Kitchen Kompact Inc.
Jeffersonville, Ind. – kitchenkompact.com
Lebanon Junction, Ky. – lsccom.com
Auto parts stamping
Shelbyville, Ky. – martinrea.com
Assembled metallic auto products
Elizabethtown, Ky. – metalsa.com
Nationwide Uniform Corp.
Outdoor equipment transmissions
Salem, Ind. – peerlessgear.com
Shepherdsville, Ky. – pubpress.com
Purnell’s “Old Folks” Sausage
Simpsonville, Ky. – itsgooo-od.com
Restonic New Albany
New Albany, Ind. – restonic.com
Roll Forming Corp.
Roll formed products (auto/aerospace)
Shelbyville, Ky. – rfcorp.com
Whiskey distillation, processing, bottling
Bardstown, Ky. – 1792bourbon.com
Stanley Black & Decker
Professional power tools
Shelbyville, Ky. –
Metal, stampings, assemblies
Bardstown, Ky. – towerinternational.com
Toyota Boshoku Kentucky
Automotive door trim, interior parts
Bardstown, Ky. – tbamerica.com
Tyson Foods Inc.
Poultry deli products
Corydon, Ind. – tyson.com