By Lorie Hailey
Spurred by the idea that fashion didn’t need to come at the cost of cruelty to animals, Covington resident Donna Salyers created a faux fur coat sewing kit over 30 years ago and soon became known around the world as a fashion trendsetter. Today, Donna’s Fabulous Furs is a $16 million dollar company that employs nearly 90 people and is the go-to luxury fur alternative.
Salyers’ company has outgrown its workspace six times since it began. Today, its headquarters is located in the former Wadsworth Electric building in downtown Covington, a multi-level historic building where employees design, market and stitch together fashion pieces from a vast collection of fur styles and colors.
On the first floor, Salyers and her team have set up a video recording studio to debut new products on home shopping channels and other media outlets, a change necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And because many of her products are purchased online, the Fabulous Furs HQ also has an entire warehouse and shipping department dedicated to getting ordered items in the mail as soon as possible.
Donna’s Fabulous Furs has been featured in numerous newspapers and fashion magazines, as well as television shows, movies and Broadway theaters. Among the highlights: In 2017, the actress playing Carole King in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical!” wore a Fabulous Furs parka; actress and singer Jennifer Hudson wore a Fabulous Furs piece on the cover of O Magazine, as has Editorial Director Oprah Winfrey herself; and characters on the television shows “Empire,” “Hot in Cleveland,” “The Mysteries of Laura,” and more have worn Fabulous Furs.
The luxurious faux fur coats and accessories are among many notable products made in Northern Kentucky. With a strong machine tool history and a unique geographic advantage, the region has become a hub for modern advanced manufacturing facilities that serve many industries and create a variety of products: precision aircraft and automotive parts, playing cards, safety identification tags and bracelets, Airheads candy, rifles, Keebler cookies, cocktail sausages, L’Oreal hair care products, bourbon and other spirits, and much more.
NKY is even home to a company that designs and manufactures the advanced manufacturing machine tools that are used by manufacturers across the globe. At its North American headquarters in Florence, Mazak produces a wide range of multitasking machines, 5-axis, turning and milling machines that use its trademarked iSmart Factory system, which utilizes state-of-the-art automation, plantwide connectivity, free-flow data sharing and a fully optimized production flow to enhance service and efficiency.
Mazak’s three-building campus, which has 536,000 s.f. of manufacturing capacity, is the hub for eight technology centers, five technical centers and dozens of distributors across North America.
“Continuously investing in manufacturing technology allows the Kentucky Mazak iSMART Factory to be the most advanced and efficient in the industry, providing high-quality and reliable products through its ‘production-on-demand’ practice,” the company said.
As part of a $15 million investment, Mazak in July 2020 opened its newly expanded Spindle Rebuild Department. In its manufacturing plant, Mazak installed a new state-of-the-art manufacturing cell with a fully automated storage and retrieval system, six of the company’s most advanced machine tools and several of its Mazak digital process monitoring solutions. The upgrades to the production facility, which has been expanded nearly 20 times since it opened in 1974, allow the company to satisfy growing customer demand and provide the shortest possible turnaround times, according to a company press release.
New facility and expansion activity continue
Eleven advanced manufacturing projects invested more than $117 million and brought 577 new jobs to Northern Kentucky in 2020, according to data from Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (NKY Tri-ED), the region’s economic development company.
Through its business retention and expansion outreach program, Tri-ED worked with Bonfiglioli North America to support the company’s decision to nearly double its operations with a $5.2 million investment and add 75 jobs in unincorporated Boone County, the company’s North American headquarters. Bonfiglioli opened its 75,000-s.f. manufacturing space expansion in
In February 2020, Camco Chemical Co. completed an expansion of its facility in Independence. Camco is a supply chain services company providing turnkey chemical contract manufacturing, warehousing and fulfillment services. The expansion increased Camco’s capacity of its liquid blending and bottling operations. Camco also opened a new 100,000-s.f. warehouse in Florence in July 2020, opening up more space at its existing manufacturing facility that will result in additional capacity and capabilities in the long term.
Camco also helped manufacture and provide personal protective equipment to the region’s health care and emergency workers at the beginning of the pandemic.
Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties are home to well over 400 manufacturers of all sizes, according to 2020 planning data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development (KCED). Production work accounts for nearly 15% of jobs in Boone County.
NKY is home to more than 40 companies that make auto parts components and engines, as well as those that specialize in advanced automation; chemicals, plastics and composites; and distribution. The region’s major auto manufacturing employers include Mubea, where 1,017 employees make tailored rolled blanks and precision springs; and Robert Bosch Automotive Steering, where 1,200 employees make steering gears and columns.
In the past five years, KCED announced more than 75 manufacturing facility locations and expansions, a reported capital investment of nearly $710 million and 2,385 additional jobs. Some of the biggest investments included: the 2016 expansion of airplane brake disc manufacturer Messier-Bugatti USA in Walton, a $150 million investment that created an additional 84 jobs; a $73 million investment in the 2017 expansion of Mubea Tailor Rolled Blanks in Florence, creating an additional 118 jobs; back-to-back expansions of the Tyson/Hillshire Brands food plant in Alexandria, where nearly $85 million was invested in 2016 and 2017; and a $40 million investment in a new Whitehall Inc. plant in Hebron, which manufactures fresh and frozen bread products.
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
UV, water, air and surface purification systems
Automotive technology training devices
Industrial networking, object detection
Beverly International Nutrition
Sports nutrition manufacturer
Blue Grass Quality Meats
Speed changer, industrial high-speed drive and gear manufacturing; USA headquarters
Boone County Distilling Co.
Bourbon, rye and other whiskey specialties
Camco Chemical Co.
Blending, warehousing liquid, powder chemical products
Carl Zeiss Vision
Clarion Corp. of America
Car audio, multimedia products
Processors of fresh-cut produce
Crescent Paper Tube Co.
Paper tubes, paperboard products, cores, caps
Dixie Dew Products Co.
Ice cream toppings
DURO Bag, a Novolex Brand
Paper bags for fast food
Professional dry cleaning detergents,
wet cleaning soap, spotting chemicals
Safety access and control systems
Fuji Autotech USA
Automotive seat components
Trade show exhibits, 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
Cutting and grinding of beef, chicken, seafood
Military air conditioning, heaters, decontamination units
Specialty chemicals, detergents, lubricants
International Mold Steel
Steel for plastic and 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 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, multitasking 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
Mubea Precision Springs
Transmission springs and hose clamps
National Band & Tag Co.
Poultry leg and wing bands, bands used for wildlife, ID tags
New Riff Distilling
Newly Weds Foods
Cracker and bread crumbs, batter mixes
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 systems
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 devices
Limestone mine, crushed stone
Stewart Iron Works
Ornamental iron fencing and gates
Italian marble products
Custom tee shirts
Total Display Solutions
LCD panels for computer video displays and television LCD panes
Toyota Boshoku America
Automotive interior systems
Professional hair products
Trophy Awards Manufacturing
Awards, trophies, plaques, gifts, promotional items
Lunch meat, hot dogs, smoked sausages
United Dairy Farmers
US Playing Card Co.
Umbilical cord preservation
The Waddington Group
Plastic, disposable cups, plates, cutlery
White Castle Distributing
Wolf Steel USA
High-end fireplaces, grills, HVAC
Electric shuttle and cargo vans
ZF Boge Elastmetall
Transmissions, steering systems, axles