By Lorie Hailey
With a strong machine tool history and its geographic advantage, Northern Kentucky has become a hub for modern advanced manufacturing facilities that serve many industries.
Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties are home to well over 200 manufacturers, and even more in the counties adjacent to the tri-county region, according to 2019 data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
Of the three counties, Boone is the manufacturing hub. Nearly 15% of jobs in Boone County – 13,363 – are at a manufacturing facility, according to KCED data. In Campbell County, 6.75% is manufacturing; it’s 8.1% in Kenton County. Since 2016, two new manufacturing locations have opened in Boone County and 13 have expanded, investing more than $196 million and creating 621 new jobs.
Kenton County has had one new manufacturing plant and 16 expansions since 2016, an investment of $116.3 million that created 534 new jobs. Campbell County has had two manufacturing expansions, an investment of $1.2 million and an additional 13 jobs.
Mubea is the area’s largest manufacturer, employing more than 1,300, producing heavy-duty products for lightweight construction. The next largest is Robert Bosch Automotive Steering, which makes steering gears for the car and light truck market; and assembles steering columns, hydraulic steering gears, electric steering gears, and power steering pumps for the auto industry. It has about 1,200 workers.
Northern Kentucky has a proven advantage in automotive manufacturing and a strong core of a strong core of supporting industries including metal fabrication; chemicals, plastics, and composites manufacturing; and distribution and logistics.
“Because of Northern Kentucky’s geographic location and transportation advantages, these machine tool manufacturers strategically serve many automotive and aerospace companies in the Midwest and Southeast and even overseas customers,” said Lee Crume, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED.
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More than 40 automotive companies are already located in Northern Kentucky, including major employers like Bosch, Mubea, Balluff, Meritor Heavy Vehicle Systems and Celanese.
Since January 2018, there have been 34 major manufacturing announcements in the tri-county region, a reported capital investment of more than $191 million – an additional 1,405 jobs. Some of the largest of those announcements included Jabil Inc.’s December 2018 investment of $13.5 million at its Florence facility, where it manufactures racks and servers for data centers, creating 253 new jobs. Meyer Tool announced an investment of $16 million in March of 2019, creating 100 new jobs at its precision aircraft parts facility in Erlanger.
Optical products distributor ABB Optical Group announced a $15 million plan in June 2019 to open a manufacturing facility in Erlanger, creating 200 news jobs.
Many powerhouse American and international manufacturers have chosen to locate in Northern Kentucky, and many more have logistics and distribution centers there, including Perfetti Van Melle, Mazak Corp., Safran Landing Systems, L’Oreal USA, Tyson/Hillshire Foods, The Schwan Food Co., Evenflo Feeding, Architectural Aluminum Products, Road ID, Amazon, Bosch, Citi, DHL, Mubea, Cabot Corp., Indy Honeycomb and WILD Flavors.
Other interesting items “made” in Northern Kentucky include: Schwan’s frozen pizzas; hair and skin care products by L’Oreal; Airheads candy; bourbon products; playing cards; Lit’l Smokies (cocktail weenies); airplane parts; menu boards; chocolate and specialty candies; AR-15 rifles; and more.
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
Old Capitol Annex
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Kentucky encourages growth of new and existing companies of all sizes, and ensures entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. Kentucky fosters growth through services designed to spur investment and create jobs. Explore the many advantages of the commonwealth and you’ll find Kentucky will go the extra mile to exceed your needs.
Here is a sampling of manufacturers in the tri-county area:
A.O. Smith Co.
Water heaters, boilers and storage tanks
Truck and industrial radiators
Magazine & book publisher
UV, water, air and surface purification systems
ATech Training Inc.
Automotive technology training devices
Industrial networking, object detection
Beverly International Nutrition
Sports nutrition manufacturer
Blue Grass Quality Meats
Speed changer, industrial high-speed drive & gear manufacturing, USA headquarters
Boone County Distilling Co.
Bourbon, rye, and other whiskey specialties
Carl Zeiss Vision Inc.
Clarion Corp. of America
Car audio, multimedia, information products
Processors of fresh cut produce
Crescent Paper Tube Co.
Paper tubes, paperboard products, cores, caps
DURO Bag a Novolex Brand
Paper bags for fast food
Infant equipment, baby care and juvenile products
Professional dry cleaning detergents, wet cleaning soaps and spotting chemicals
Safety access and control systems
Fuji Autotech USA
Automative seat components
Trade show exhibits and store fixtures
Fragrance and flavor
German breakfast sausage
Grandpa Brands Co.
Personal care products
Rigid industrial packaging, steel drums
Animal rendering services
Industrial equipment and technology
Halperns’ Steak & Seafood
High quality portion control beef products
Military air conditioning, heaters, decontamination units
Specialty chemicals, detergents, lubricants
International Mold Steel
Steel for plastic & rubber molds
Printing plant, packaging materials
Select halogen specialty chemicals, iodine
Home and auto glass solutions
Johnson Controls – Power Solutions
Lead acid batteries
Premium tropical shaved ice
Lingo Manufacturing Co.
Custom permanent point-of-purchase displays
Security systems for parking garages
L’Oreal USA-Florence Manufacturing
Hair care products
Flavorings and juices
CNC turning centers, vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers, Multi-Tasking machines, 5-axis machines
Meggitt Polymers & Composites
Composite engine and aerostructure components
Precision aircraft parts
Surgical devices for pets
Lightweight construction specialist providing heavy duty spring components and related products
Mubea Precision Springs
Transmission springs and hose clamps
National Band & Tag Co.
Poultry leg and wing bands, bands used for wildlife,
New Riff Distilling
Newly Weds Foods
Cracker and bread crumbs, batter mixes
Communications systems and A/V integrator
North American Stainless L.P.
Snacks, foods and beverages
Perfetti van Melle
P L Marketing
Kroger corporate branding products
Isolated power system design and manufacturer
Sewage treatment equipment
R & R Design & Manufacturing
Conveyor & automation systems
Road ID Bracelets
Robert Bosch Automotive
Ronan Engineering Co.
Measuring equipment, radiation gauges and measuring instruments
Safran Landing Systems
Carbon brakes for airplanes
Schwan’s Global Supply Chain
Surgical products, surgical device production, contract medical device manufacturing
Limestone mine, crushed stone
Stewart Iron Works
Ornamental iron fencing and gates
Italian marble products
Custom tee shirts
Total Display Solutions
Re-manufactures LCD panels for computer video displays and television LCD panes
Toyota Boshoku America
Automotive interior systems
Professional hair products
Trophy Awards Manufacturing
Awards, crystal awards, acrylic awards, trophies, plaques, corporate awards, gifts, promotional items
Meat, primarily cocktail weenies
United Dairy Farmers
US Playing Card Co.
Umbilical cord preservation
The Waddington Group
High-quality plastic, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, serving ware
White Castle Distributing
Wolf Steel USA
High-end fireplaces, grills, HVAC
Electric shuttle and cargo vans
ZF Boge Elastmetall
Transmissions, steering systems, axles