Fast Lane: December 2015

By wmadministrator

Bowling Green: Auto industry growth drives $57M Kobe Expansion, 112 jobs

Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, a supplier for the automotive industry, is investing $57 million to expand its facility in Bowling Green.

The company is constructing a 116,000-s.f. addition that will provide the capacity for substantial equipment upgrades to help meet anticipated growth in the coming years.

Based in Kobe, Japan, KAAP develops lightweight aluminum parts that contribute to the overall reduction in vehicle weight, which helps lower fuel consumption and emissions. KAAP began production in Bowling Green in 2005 and has expanded its operations five times since then. The company’s Bowling Green workforce has grown to 368, with an additional 112 jobs being added to support the upcoming project.

Construction on the latest expansion is scheduled to begin this month with a projected completion of October 2016.

Bowling Green: $261M expansion at Bowling Green Metalforming means 450 more auto sector jobs

Bowling Green Metalforming LLC is investing more than $261 million over the next four years to expand its automotive supply operations in Bowling Green, where it produces vehicle body and chassis assemblies for original equipment manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

The company plans to add more than 450 new jobs to support the expansion.

The project includes a 260,000-s.f. addition to the company’s current facility and equipment purchases to support recently awarded contracts for heavy stamping, robotic assembly and the coating of chassis and other parts. The expansion’s economic impact is expected to top $800 million in the next decade.

Bowling Green Metalforming is a division of Cosma International, an operating unit of Magna International Inc. Since first breaking ground in Warren County 11 years ago, the company has completed five expansion projects, representing a total investment of approximately $244 million. Those projects have resulted in a 950,000-s.f. facility, staffed by a workforce of more than 1,000 employees.

“It’s difficult to overemphasize just how significant the Bowling Green Metalforming expansion will be for our region,” said state Sen. Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green. “This is one of the largest corporate expansions southcentral Kentucky has seen in the last decade.”

Lexington: City council votes to up minimum wage to $10.10 over 3 years

The Lexington Urban County Council has approved raising the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the course of the next three years.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 9-to-6.

The first phase of wage increases goes into effect July 1, 2016, when the Lexington minimum wage will go to $8.20 an hour.

The new ordinance exempts tipped employees and agricultural workers.

Lexington becomes the second city in Kentucky to raise its minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Louisville’s metro council voted to raise its minimum wage last December, and after a series of legal challenges the wage increased to $7.75 in July. The Louisville minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour over the next three years.

There is a suit challenging the validity of the Louisville wage hike before the state Supreme Court.

Louisville: Grupo Antolin to open two auto supply plants in louisville

Grupo Antolin, one of the largest global manufacturers of interior components for the automotive industry, has announced plans to locate two facilities in Louisville.

The family-owned company, which is based in Spain, currently employs nearly 350 people at its plant in Hopkinsville and says the two new locations in Louisville will help meet a projected increase in demand for its products. More than 200 new jobs are being added as a result of the expansion.

Founded in 1950 in Burgos, Spain, Grupo Antolin began as a mechanics garage and has since grown into a multinational company with more than 160 facilities in 26 countries, employing more than 28,000 people.

The company specializes in the development, design and manufacturing of interior components for the automotive industry, including doors, seats, lighting and instrument panels. The company provides parts for more than 300 vehicle models, with one out of every four vehicles manufactured worldwide featuring Grupo Antolin parts.

Louisville: Ford to invest$1.3B, add 2,000 jobs at Kentucky truck plant

Ford Motor Co. is investing $1.3 billion and adding 2,000 new jobs at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville to support the launch of the all-new 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty truck.

The announcement is the biggest individual economic investment in Kentucky history.

Kentucky Truck Plant produces F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, as well as Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

The investment – which will include a new body shop, facility upgrades and retooling to build the new aluminum-bodied truck – is the latest in a string of projects Ford has undertaken over the last couple of years. In 2014, the company invested $80 million to increase production at Kentucky Truck in order to meeting growing customer demand while another $129 million was invested to support production of the Lincoln MKC luxury crossover vehicle at the Louisville Assembly Plant. This latest announcement brings Ford’s investment in the commonwealth to more than $1.5 billion over the course of two years.

Kentucky Truck Plant, which opened in 1969, now employs close to 4,400 people and covers 6 million s.f., making it one of Ford’s largest plants in the world.

Louisville: Electronic toll system being implemented for new bridges

When the Ohio River Bridges Project connecting Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind., is complete next year, an electronic system will be implemented to collect tolls – with no toll plazas, no coin buckets and no waiting in line.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority has been approved for membership in E-Zpass Group, which operates a common electronic toll payment system in 15 other states. With the E-Zpass system, vehicles pass through tolling gantries that are monitored in two ways: via onboard electronic transponders that send signals to monitors and video cameras that record license plates from overhead gantries.

The lowest rates will be charged to motorists using a transponder, which allows for tolls to be automatically debited from an established account. Higher rates – because of higher administrative costs – will be charged for motorists who must be tracked by video camera identification of their license plates. Motorists without a prepaid account will be sent an invoice, mailed to the address tied to their license plate.

An E-ZPass transponder, which will cost about $15, is one of two transponder options for future users of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges. The transponder can be transferred between vehicles and will work for any and all E-ZPass systems.(E-ZPass Group has 26 member agencies in 15 states, including five of the seven states bordering Kentucky: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. Toll roads in those states include the Illinois Tollway system, West Virginia Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike, Indiana Toll Road and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.) The other option is a decal-sticker “local” transponder that can be obtained at no cost but will work only on the local crossings. The local transponder cannot be transferred between vehicles.

The toll rates will range from $1 to $4 for two-axle passenger vehicles, $5 to $7 for medium trucks and $10 to $12 for heavy trucks.

Midway:  New American Howa plant in midway to supply TMMK, add 54 jobs

American Howa Kentucky Inc., a Bowling Green-based manufacturer of interior products for the auto industry, is building a new facility in Midway that will create 54 new full-time jobs.

Construction of the 60,000-s.f. plant will allow AHK to supply the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky facility in nearby Georgetown with headliners for the Toyota Camry.

AHK currently operates one Kentucky facility in Bowling Green, employing 179 full-time workers. That facility produces dash insulators, sunshades, headliners and other automotive interior products.

The company first announced the Bowling Green facility in 2007 and expanded it in late 2008, adding 24 jobs. In 2011, the company expanded once again, adding 86 jobs and 56,000 s.f. to the 138,000-s.f. facility.

Nicholasville: Growing Alltech to buy Canadian animal nutrition company

Alltech, a global animal nutrition company headquartered in Nicholasville, has entered into an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Masterfeeds Inc., a leading commercial animal nutrition company in Canada.

“This is a crucial time in agriculture, and Canadian farmers are facing ever-increasing pressures, including the continued drive to produce more with fewer resources,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech. “Masterfeeds provides the on-farm support that is critical to Canada’s farmers and ranchers. This new opportunity will enable more efficient delivery of superior animal nutrition and tailored feeding programs, supported by robust scientific research.”

Masterfeeds further strengthens Alltech’s presence in Canada by creating one of the country’s largest animal nutrition offerings. Alltech, Masterfeeds and EMF Nutrition, another Alltech-owned Canadian company, employ approximately 700 Canadians, operating 25 feed manufacturing and premix facilities, nine retail locations and seven distribution centers in a business spanning the entire country.

Masterfeeds, an 86-year-old company that has a history of research and innovation, will continue to be headquartered in London, Ontario, Canada, and led by its current chief executive officer, Rob Flack. Alltech’s own entity, Alltech Canada, will remain headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, serving the entire Canadian feed industry.

Alltech has seen rapid growth in the last several years: The company has tripled its sales in the last three years and is on target to achieve $4 billion in sales within the next few years. Since 2011, Alltech has completed 13 acquisitions, with the Masterfeed purchase representing its 14th acquisition.

The combined Alltech/Masterfeeds company will have a presence in 128 countries and more than 4,700 employees worldwide.

Russellville: Logan Aluminum rolls out growth plan, will add 190 jobs

Logan Aluminum is expanding its operations in Logan County, where it produces rolled aluminum sheets for beverage cans.

The expansion will add 190 new jobs at Logan, which currently employs more than 1,000 and ranks as one of the county’s largest employers.

In conjunction with Tri-Arrows Aluminum (TAA), Logan Aluminum is expanding its recycling/new ingot casting facility to provide additional capabilities and increased capacity at its rolling mills, scalping and preheating operations.

The ingot casting facility will include a new 280,000-s.f. building on the existing plant site to produce approximately 600 million pounds of cast ingot annually. An additional 68,000-s.f. expansion will accommodate new equipment that will allow the plant to produce heavier-gauge material, allowing for expansion into other products, including automotive sheet.

Production of the heavier gauge sheet is expected to begin next year; production of casting ingots will start in early 2018.

State: Kentucky’s Unemployment rate falls to 4.9%, lowest in 14 years, wages rise twice as fast as U.S.

Kentucky’s preliminary October 2015 unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 percent, the lowest unemployment rate the state has reported since May 2001, when it was also 4.9 percent.

The state rate for October 2015 was slightly less than the U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate in October of 5 percent.

“The Kentucky labor market has shown steady resilience for well over a year. When the unemployment rate hovers at around 5 percent – or lower as is the case this month – there is strong upward pressure on wages,” said economist Manoj Shanker, of the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET). “During 2015, average weekly wages have increased by 4.8 percent, more than twice as fast as the national average.”

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excluded jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 5,800 jobs in October 2015 from the month before, and jumped by 31,800 positions since October 2014.

“Hiring has been brisk across all major sectors. Despite the faltering global market, job growth in Kentucky’s private sector has been strong,” said Shanker. “Key factors like low energy prices and near-zero inflation have helped Kentucky’s goods-producing industries.”

State: SBA Seeking nominations for Kentucky small business awards

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Kentucky District Office is accepting nominations for its 2016 National Small Business Week Awards, including the prestigious Small Business Person of the Year award.

The Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year for 2015 was Scott Shinn, president and CEO of Sustainment Solutions Inc., a veteran-owned small business located in Lancaster, Ky.

In addition to Small Business Person of the Year, the Kentucky District Office also has 2016 small business awards, including Home Based, Minority, Veteran and Woman Small Business of the Year, as well as Financial Services, Small Business and Media Advocate of the Year, and Young Entrepreneur.

The Kentucky Small Business Person and Small Business Exporter of the Year will compete nationally and be recognized in May 2016 during National Small Business Week in Washington, DC.

Award details, including eligibility, information requirements and evaluation criteria, as well as nomination procedures, can be found at on the SBA Kentucky District Office website, sba.gov/ky or at awards.sba.gov/. Small business owners or advocates can self-nominate.

The deadline to receive nomination packages is 3 p.m. ET, Jan 11, 2016. Nominations should be submitted online at awards.sba.gov/ or delivered directly to the Kentucky District Office, depending on the award. Postmarked or hand-delivered packages should be sent to SBA’s Kentucky District Office, 600 Dr. M.L. King, Jr. Place, Room 188, Louisville, KY 40202.

State: Report ranks Ky’s business  climate among top three in nation

A succession of expanding businesses, new facility openings, thousands of new jobs and efforts by economic developers statewide helped Kentucky place third nationally in the 2015 Business Climate Ranking by Site Selection magazine.

Kentucky leapt from eighth place last year – the largest increase of any state in the 2015 ranking – to achieve its highest position ever. The Bluegrass State placed first in the ranking’s new plants-per-capita category and ranked fourth in the 2014 new plants-per-capita category. Overall, only two points separated third-place Kentucky (582) from second-place North Carolina (584). Georgia took first place with 601 points.

Site Selection delivers expansion-planning information to 48,000 executives of fast-growing firms. The annual business-climate ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank states based on their recent experience of locating facilities there, considering existing workforce skills, state and local taxes, transportation and utility infrastructure, and land/building prices and supply.

Their responses account for 50 percent, while the remaining 50 percent is based on performance in Site Selection‘s annual competitiveness ranking; total new plant database compliant facilities in 2014; total new facilities in 2014 per capita; total 2015 new projects year to date; total 2015 projects year to date per capita; and state tax burdens on both mature firms and new firms, according to the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.

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