By Susan Gosselin
More than a chamber of commerce slogan, “I made it in Northern Kentucky” is an accurate description of the growing momentum the manufacturing sector is experiencing.
From January through October 2017, more than 400 manufacturing jobs were created and $360 million was invested in new and expanding manufacturing facilities in the eight Northern Kentucky counties alone, according to the state Cabinet for Economic Development.
“Companies looking for manufacturing locations have been taking a second look at Northern Kentucky,” said Jack Mazurak, communications director for the cabinet. “We have qualities employers are looking for: low cost of living, a great quality of life, a deep labor pool, favorable laws and regulations, and a solid base of aerospace and automotive companies already here. And with the Cincinnati airport nearby, companies who locate here can take advantage of the DHL Express (air freight) global hub. They can ship internationally, overnight in most cases.”
Since January 2017, three new companies decided to locate in Northern Kentucky, including Whitehall Inc., which is spending $40 million to open a Hebron-based plant to manufacture bread products and employ 81 workers; Cabot Corp., which is investing $89 million in a new chemical plant employing 32 in Carrollton; and MGPI of Indiana, which is investing $3.8 million to open a contract food and beverage company in Williamstown.
They add to the strong legacy of manufacturing in the region – one rooted in aerospace products, food service and custom machining.
For instance, Safran Landing Systems, a commercial and military aircraft wheel and brake components maker based in Walton is the world leader in aircraft landing and braking systems. The company staffs 380 employees, and completed a $100 million expansion in 2016. It is one of the reasons Kentucky’s largest export category is aircraft parts and accessories, accounting for 37 percent of the commonwealth’s total exports in 2016.
Northern Kentucky’s advantageous business climate has led many important manufacturers to call the region home, including sometimes Fortune 500 company General Cable, auto parts maker Mubea, Tyson/Hillshire Foods, Novolex, The Schwan Food Co., Robert Bosch Automotive Steering, Architectural Aluminum Products, and Evenflo Feeding, and L’Oréal.
Mubea is the area’s largest manufacturer, employing more than 1,300 workers producing heavy-duty products for lightweight construction.
“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 Economic Development Cabinet, the Labor Secretary’s Office, Gateway Community and Technical College, the Tri-ED staff, the NKY Chamber, and the press,” said Doug Cain, CEO of Mubea North America. “In addition, the local government officials and services sector have always made us feel a valued member of the community.”
L’Oréal completed installation of the biggest solar power plant in Kentucky in summer 2017. The 4,140-panel configuration sits on a Kenton County rooftop and equates to over 1,000 metric tons of carbon that won’t be introduced into the air, according to L’Oréal USA Plant Manager Nicole Frey.
“Companies want to manufacture in the U.S.,” said Brian Papke, chairman of Mazak Corp. in Florence. “If you are making something simple, you make it offshore, but manufacturing is much more sophisticated than it has been in the past. Products are more complex and made with fewer parts. You need the equipment to make that, and you need people with skills to run them.”
Cutting-edge machine tool leader Mazak makes customized, advanced technology for other manufacturers, a high precision business requiring a large workforce of engineers, machinists and advanced manufacturing experts.
“We’ve been in Northern Kentucky for decades now,” Papke said. “And even though our company is privately held in Japan, Kentucky gives us a good base for growing our global reach. The proprietary knowledge you find here and the (advantageous) logistics costs of operating here make it a very attractive place to do business.”
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 Co.
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 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
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
Engine seal, structural & other applications of honeycomb
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, production, medical devices
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
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 Co.
Red Baron Pizza
US Playing Card Co.
Umbilical cord blood preservation
The Waddington Group
High-quality disposable 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 Co.
Source: Northern Kentucky Tri-ED and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce