By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — After Kentucky lawmakers approved a $15 million investment to help bring an aluminum plant in the eastern part of the state in the 2017 session, Braidy Industries testified in front of committee Tuesday to provide an update on the project, leadership changes with the organization, and what comes next.
Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, emphasized that members of the General Assembly want Braidy Industries to succeed, but that there are still many questions surrounding the project because of the taxpayer investment.
At the end of January, Braidy Industries Chairman and CEO Craig Bouchard stepped down as the company announced it was entering its final stage of fundraising. Tom Modrowski has since been named interim CEO and testified in front of the committee Tuesday.
Bouchard, who claimed he had not stepped down as chairman and CEO, posted this on his Facebook page Feb. 6:
To my friends in Ashland and NEK
I can sense the confusion and concern in the community and hope it settles down quickly. I have a business disagreement with the Board of Braidy Industries that will be resolved in time by the appropriate parties and process. In the interim, it is important you know that I am committed to the mill project; the Board has stated that it is too. We are all working to make this project a reality.
I am the largest shareholder of the company and I have more skin in the game than anyone. I am committed. My vision is the creation of 650 advanced manufacturing jobs, with thousands of jobs potentially created by companies that have expressed interest to co-locate. This is the correct vision.
Building the lowest cost aluminum mill in the world is our goal. The design is about finished. Please be patient. Always in my thoughts and prayers are God, Family, and Community. Craig
Modrowski said the board of directors at Braidy made the leadership changes because they were ready to see more progress made on the project.
As for where the project stands, the Braidy Industries leaders said the project is shovel ready, but more funding is needed. To break it down, Modrowski said the company currently has $65 million on hand and needs to gather more investments at a total of $700 million, $200 million of which they said has already been committed.
Once that $700 million is raised, the company expects to be able to break ground on the project. When asked if that will be done by the end of 2020, the company leaders said they believe the money will be raised by the fourth quarter of this year.
It was stated that the project is expected to take 27 months to complete from start to finish.
Since the announcement of the project and the state investment in 2017, the company says it has assembled a leadership team of experts to build the facility, acquired the land and buildings needed for the project, acquired necessary permits, and negotiated a 10-year power supply agreement.
Representatives from Braidy stated that the company is as confident about the completion of the project as it was three years ago.
Many legislators expressed concerns about the significant amount of money still needed to begin the project. McDaniel asked the company to provide quarter by quarter updates to the legislature to ensure the project stays on track. McDaniel also indicated that if the company is not able to break ground by the end of 2020, the state would have to reevaluate its investment.