By Abby Laub
Every day, Northern Kentucky churns out important products crucial to business operations around the world. For example, three million airplane passengers every single day rely on aircraft carbon brakes that are manufactured in Walton.
In fall 2016, Safran Landing Systems, a commercial and military aircraft wheel and brake components maker formerly known as Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, broke ground on a $100 million-plus expansion.
Safran Landing is the world leader in aircraft landing and braking systems, and the expansion will help it keep up with rising demand in North America. The company’s Walton plant is one of its three carbon production plants worldwide and the only one in North America.
Aerospace products and parts lead Kentucky’s $28 billion in exports by category, with Safran contributing greatly. In 2015, the state shipped more than $8.7 billion in aerospace products and as of July 2016 had shown an impressive year-to-date increase of 21.8 percent. As of July 2016, 36 percent of Kentucky’s total exports were aerospace products and parts.
Thanks in large part to a skilled workforce, prime location and low taxes, Northern Kentucky is the manufacturing base for many other major corporations like world machine tool leader Mazak Corp., sometime Fortune 500 member General Cable, auto parts maker Mubea, Tyson/Hillshire Foods, L’Oreal cosmetics, Novolex, The Schwan Food Co., Robert Bosch Automotive Steering, Architectural Aluminum Products, and Evenflo Feeding, just to name a few.
With 1,360 employees at its Florence plant, Mubea holds rank as the largest manufacturing employer in Northern Kentucky. Mubea is a lightweight construction specialist providing heavy duty spring components and related products.
“Mubea’s successful manufacturing operations over the years have been the direct result of the hard work of our committed Northern Kentucky and tri-state employees combined with the strong and enthusiastic efforts of the entire business support network including the Governor’s Office, the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet, the Labor Secretary’s Office, Gateway Community and Technical College, the Tri-ED staff, the NKY Chamber, and the press with the NKY Tribune,” said Mubea North America CEO Doug Cain. “In addition, the local government officials and services sector including the fire, police, and sheriff’s departments have always made us feel a valued member of the community.”
With one-day delivery to two-thirds of the U.S. market and a DHL global air freight shipping hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, manufacturers in Northern Kentucky enjoy logistical benefits that are unparalleled nearly anywhere else in the country.
Erlanger-based Sterling Cut Glass, a PGA Tour sponsor and licensee, is one of the longest continuously operating glassworks companies in the nation. It and many others cite “the community spirit, great employees and family atmosphere” as reasons they love to manufacture quality-conscious products in the area.
They range from the broadest household names to specialty niches. For example, runners and cyclists in Kentucky can buy local when purchasing world-renowned Road ID bracelets. The identification bracelets made in Erlanger are known as life-saving tools for people participating in sports.
Manufacturing’s workforce pipeline
To help keep up with the demand for skilled workers, the I Made it in NKY initiative – launched by the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition – helps educate workers and pair them with manufacturers who need skilled employees. Area manufacturers quickly jumped onboard the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) initiative, an initiative that spread quickly from its Central Kentucky origins just a few years ago. With 10 chapters all over the state, KY FAME is a partnership between community technical colleges and regional manufacturers to implement dualtrack, apprenticeship-style training that will create a pipeline of skilled, teamwork-oriented, problem solving workers.
Wade Williams, Tri-ED’s senior vice president of business development, oversees manufacturing projects for the economic development organization and explained how there is a concerted and productive effort to bring together the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition and KY FAME.
“I view the evolution of our workforce initiatives in NKY as a process,” he said, noting how a Northern Kentucky Industrial Parks study in 2012 revealed manufacturing needs that would develop over the next 10 years quickly prompted companies in the region to act.
“Bosch and Mubea and others came together to form the Northern Kentucky chapter for FAME and started the recruitment process,” Williams said. “While that was going on, there was also this call to action in the community to work on this pipeline of skilled talent since those were some of the issues that were part of the NKIP study.”
Ultimately KY FAME and AMWDC grew organically out of different initiatives but involved many of the same people, he explained, with KY FAME being set up as an apprenticeship program while the AMWDC took on the work of marketing modern, well-paying manufacturing jobs to parents and students.
In fall 2016, the groups were combined to maximize results, with a coalition steering committee that includes a talent supply subcommittee run by KY FAME. The other two elements are measuring success and marketing.
Williams highlighted two additional exciting programs coming out of KY FAME now: the Raise The Floor initiative and Enhanced Operator Program. Raise The Floor aims to recruit more women to work in advanced manufacturing.
The KY FAME Northern Kentucky chapter’s company members are: Diversified Composites; Grief; Hahn Automation; Krauss-Maffei; Linamar; Linkology USA; L’Oreal; Mubea; Nucor; Robert Bosch Automotive Steering LLC; Safran/Messier-Bugatti-Dowty; Skilcraft; Steinert US; Steinkamp Molding; Stober; Wagstaff; and Zotefoam.
Largest Manufacturers by Employment
The Schwan Food Company
The C.W. Zumbiel Company
Abrasive coated foam
AR 15 Rifles
Electro optical UV detectors
Armor USA Inc.
Thermal transfer printer ribbons
Atkins & Pearce, Inc.
Braided technical textiles
High pressure food processing
Tubular stamp and multi-slide parts
Industrial networking, object detection
Blitz® bonded metallic powder coatings, Blitz® aluminum pigments
Beverly International Nutrition, Inc.
Nutrition sports manufacturer
Blue Grass Quality Meats
Advanced polymer technology to produce high-performance plastic materials
Clarion Corp. Of America
Car audio, multimedia, information products
Clopay Plastic Products Company
Specialty films, extrusion coatings, custom-printing, engineered laminations
Continental Building Products
Wallboard and joint compound materials
Filtration, coolant and fuel additive technology
Desma USA, Inc.
Tooling, rubber injection molds and injection molding machines
Diversified Structural Composites
Pultruded composite products, carbon fiber equipment
Ice cream toppings
Construction attachments, mining, and conveyor products
Evenflo Feeding, Inc.
Infant equipment, baby care and juvenile products
Professional dry cleaning detergents, wet cleaning soaps and spotting chemicals
Fields Welding, Inc.
Structural steel fabrication, metal fabrication
Machining and assembly systems, aerospace and automotive production equipment
Decanter centrifuges, separators, belt presses
Fortress Interlocks Inc.
Safety access and control systems
Fuji Autotech USA LLC
Galerie Candy & Gifts
Chocolate and specialty candy
Louisville Slugger Instructional items and pitching machines
Belts, hose, hydraulics
Copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable for energy, industrial, specialty and communications markets
Fragrance and flavor
Glier’s Meats, Inc.
German breakfast sausage
Rigid industrial packaging, steel drums
Animal rendering services
Radio systems for wireless control of cranes and machinery
Industrial equipment and technology
Hy-Tek Integrated Systems
Material handling solutions
Indelac Controls, Inc.
Quarter turn rotary electric actuators used for valve and damper automation
International Mold Steel, Inc.
Steel for plastic & rubber molds
Iofina Chemical, Inc.
Select halogen specialty chemicals, iodine
Custom machine safety guarding
Jack’s Glass, Inc.
Home and auto glass solutions
Johnson Controls, Inc. – Power Solutions
Lead acid batteries
Kiswel Welding Products
Welding filler manufacturer
KRC Machine Tool Services
Fanuc and Siemens CNC retrofitting
Lally Pipe & Tube
Structural & limited service steel pipe
Automotive parts and components
Security systems for parking garages
Specialty adhesive tapes, precision die-cuts
L’Oreal USA-Florence Manufacturing
Hair care products
Flavorings and juices
Injection molded caps and closures for personal care products
CNC turning centers, vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers, Multi-Tasking machines, 5-axis machines
Meritor Automotive, Inc.
Axle, brake and suspension solutions
Lightweight construction specialist providing heavy duty spring components and related products
National Band & Tag Co.
Poultry leg and wing bands, bands used for wildlife, ID tags
North American Stainless L.P.
Nucor Steel Gallatin
Hot band coils
Snacks, foods and beverages
Perfetti van Melle
Isolated power system design and manufacturer
R & R Design & Manufacturing
Conveyor & automation systems
R.A. Jones & Co.
River Metals Recycling LLC
Road ID Bracelets
Robert Bosch Automotive
Safran Landing Systems
Carbon brakes for airplanes
F.N. Sheppard & Co., Inc.
Surgical products, surgical device production, contract medical device manufacturing
A.O. Smith Co.
Water heaters, boilers and storage tanks
Dry magnetic drum separator solutions and sensor sorting solutions
Steinkamp Molding L.P. Mold & Tool
3-D rubber/metal & plastic injection molds, blow molds, foam molds
Sterling Cut Glass
Contracts with the PGA Tour
Sterling Ventures, LLC
Limestone mine, crushed stone
Stewart Iron Works
Ornamental iron fencing and gates
Italian marble products
Customized industrial separation equipment
Casters that go on hospital beds
TOPAS Advanced Polymers, Inc.
World’s leading maker of cyclic olefin copolymer
Toyota Boshoku America
Automotive interior systems
Specialty valves, actuators, actuation controls
Meat, primarily cocktail weenies
Paul Tuemler L.P. Gas Inc.
Propane gas service
The Schwan Food Company
Red Baron Pizza
US Playing Card Company
Umbilical cord preservation
The Waddington Group
High-quality plastic, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, serving ware
Capital equipment for molton aluminum industry
Willow Ridge Plastics, Inc.
Oxobiodegradable additives for plastics
Wolf Steel USA Inc
High end fireplaces, grills, HVAC
ZF Boge Elastmetall
Transmissions, steering systems, axles
Cross-linked block foams, world leader
The C.W. Zumbiel Company
Source: Northern Kentucky Tri-ED and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce