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Date: 04-05-2018

WHY NOT LAWRENCE COUNTY?

 

Since it is election time in Kentucky I think it proper to ask prospective candidates for County and District offices for a public statement on how they would be better at attracting a small industry to our well-placed county.

Judge/Executive candidates of all parties as well as magistrates on both sides of the ticket are asked to submit an answer and send a billfold sized photo to go with it. No charge. IF You can't do it with an email, Get a friend or relative to help.

Send to:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Here are some examples of new jobs coming to Ky. counties. Why not Lawrence County?

Plus to add more misery part of the Ky. Power money paid to replace the damage of leaving the coal business and the plant which used millions of tons of mostly locally mined coal, has not been spent in Lawrence County although it suffered the biggest negative economic hit. 

Perhaps the current fiscal court has a plan to attract a plant supplying products to the new Braidy Industries project which is supposed to bring 1,100 new well paying jobs to the area in an aluminum factory in Boyd Co. Or, they may have another one coming, but economic development director Catrina Vargo has not made such an announcement.

But candidates: please tell us what you have in mind.

Here's just three stories that reminded me that we have the location with rail, river Interstate and it is time for the state to notice Lawrence County. How would you do it?

 

STORIES FROM THE KPA NEWSLINE IN THE PAST WEEK OR SO:

 

Century Aluminum to invest $116.5 million

By Keith Lawrence
The Messenger-Inquirer

In the fall of 2015, Century Aluminum closed three potlines and laid off about 320 workers at its Hawesville smelter in a dispute over electricity prices.

But many of those jobs are now coming back.

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Wednesday that Century will invest approximately $116.5 million for improvements to the Hawesville smelter and bring back more than 250 full-time jobs.

"That's great news," Mike Baker, director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation, said after the announcement. "Those are good-paying jobs -- around $60,000 a year -- with excellent benefits. It will be a good boost to the area's economy."

Century will upgrade its smelting technology and train new and existing employees to use the new equipment, the announcement said.

The Hawesville smelter produces high-purity metal required for the defense, aerospace and electrical industries.

Century is planning job fairs at the Owensboro Career Center on April 21, May 12 and June 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to hire hourly production positions, mechanics, electricians, supervisor roles, technicians and engineers.

Production applicants should bring their WorkKeys scores along with their high school diploma or GED.

"We are pleased to announce this investment to bring the Hawesville smelter back to full production and upgrade its technology to best in class," Jesse Gary, executive vice president of Century, said in a news release.

Century had said earlier that it planned the action after the federal tax reform act passed in December.

Last month, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval to the company for tax incentives up to $5.5 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program.

Century can also receive assistance from the Kentucky Skills Network.

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FITZGERALD INDUSTRIES TO BUY FORMER BELDEN PLANT
IN MONTICELLO, CREATE 250 JOBS

Aluminum dump truck bed manufacturer will invest $6 million in Wayne County operation

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 29, 2018) – Gov. Matt Bevin today announced Fitzgerald Industries II LLC, which manufactures aluminum dump truck beds, will locate in the former Belden Inc. plant in Monticello with a $6 million investment that will create 250 full-time jobs.

“Fitzgerald Industries is providing an incredible opportunity for the workforce in Monticello and Wayne County,” Gov. Bevin said. “The closure of the Belden operation was a major blow to the local community, and this chance to put 250 people back to work comes at the perfect time. This investment by Fitzgerald Industries also strengthens Kentucky’s rapidly growing aluminum sector. This is truly a win for all involved, and we look forward to the company’s success in southeastern Kentucky.”

The company’s $6 million investment will reconfigure the plant and add machinery to cut, form and weld aluminum sheet for production of commercial-grade dump beds for Class 8 trucks. The facility also will form steel parts for use in fabrication of steel dump truck bodies.

Tommy A. Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald Industries, described his family’s enthusiasm about reopening the once bustling cable wiring plant, which closed last year as the company consolidated North American operations.

“The Fitzgerald family has made it their mission to invest in, partner with and create well-paying manufacturing jobs in the communities, particularly the rural communities, that others have left,” Fitzgerald said. “The Monticello project aligns perfectly with our mission. We are very excited about the opportunity to put Kentuckians back to work, and we appreciate the support of the state, local and federal officials who are helping us to keep manufacturing in the United States.”

###

Startup Hydroponic Farms USA Plans 121-Job Facility in Breathitt County

$44.5 million-plus investment will support production of greens, tomatoes, peppers and more

 

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 29, 2018) – Startup indoor farming company Hydroponic Farms USA will invest more than $44.5 million in Eastern Kentucky’s Breathitt County and create 121 jobs with the construction of a new facility on a reclaimed mine in Jackson, Gov. Matt Bevin announced today.

“The announcement of 121 full-time jobs in Breathitt County is wonderful news for Eastern Kentucky and its skilled workforce,” Gov. Bevin said. “It has been our administration’s mission to provide better job opportunities in every part of our state, and this investment is evidence that we are achieving that goal. We are truly grateful for this vote of confidence in the commonwealth. Hydroponic Farms USA will be a great fit for the Jackson community, and continues the economic momentum that is building in Eastern Kentucky.”

Hydroponic Farms USA will build a nearly 42-acre facility with 35.5 acres of production space. The facility will use hydroponic and aeroponic technology to grow leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers and other produce. The 121 jobs will include leadership, production and post-production roles. Company leaders plan to break ground following their land purchase and approval of permits.

 

 

April 2, 2018

FRANKFORT FOCUS:

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly

Rep. Chris Harris Rep. Chris Harris ...with State Representative Chris Harris

FRANKFORT – Of all the facts and figures surrounding the public-pension debate, two speak volumes about what happened last Thursday at the Capitol: nine and 291.

The first is about how many hours it took for House and Senate leaders to publicly unveil their plan to reform the state’s public retirement systems and then steamroll it through both chambers.   The second, meanwhile, is the number of pages other legislators and I were somehow expected to read and understand before voting in that short timeframe.

That is not how a major new law should be enacted.  It deserves public input and scrutiny, and yet this received none of that, other than loud opposition from many of my colleagues and me and the growing roar we could hear during the night from angry teachers on the Capitol’s first and second floors.

There also was not any supporting documentation showing what the bill would cost, something state law understandably requires when it comes to making changes that are often measured in billions of dollars.  The bill’s supporters could only give us vague answers to our questions.

In a telling twist, the legislation was not introduced as a stand-alone bill – the deadline to do that was more than a month ago – but was instead inserted into another that dealt with, of all things, sewage.  It’s a fitting metaphor.

The bill’s supporters argue that nothing in the legislation is new, that its elements had been in prior proposals and widely debated.  Something this complicated, however, has many moving parts, and how they interact depends on what is and is not included.

The supporters also say these reforms are necessary because that is the only way they would grant relief to our schools and local governments, which are on track to pay 50 percent or more for their retirement costs next fiscal year because of much more conservative investment projections by Kentucky Retirement Systems.  That linkage is incorrect, because we can phase those payments in over the next five years without changing the systems themselves.

There is not enough space to list every concern I have about this bill, but the biggest is that it undermines the bipartisan retirement reforms the General Assembly approved in 2013 and that are working as intended to bring the retirement systems’ liabilities down over a 30-year period.

Ironically, those who say this bill stops “kicking the can down the road” just added more miles of highway.  Since it re-sets the time to pay off those liabilities, taxpayers will have to pay billions of dollars more in the years ahead, and the retirement system for state employees, which is facing the biggest challenge, will have much lower funding levels in 2038 than if we just maintained our current course.  

That’s right: We are about to pay much more to get much less.

As for specifics in the bill, most of the impact will be felt by teachers hired in 2019 and beyond and those state and local government and classified school employees (such as secretaries and school bus drivers) hired since the start of 2014.

They will pay into what is called a hybrid cash-balance plan that operates like a 401(k) but is managed by the retirement systems.  They are not guaranteed any growth beyond employer/employee contributions, but are eligible to receive most of the investment gains earned by the retirement systems.

This new law ends the inviolable contact for new teachers, which means that, for those affected, their benefit structure can be changed at any time by the General Assembly.  Indeed, that is exactly what is happening to the state and local government and classified school employees hired since 2014.  That group of workers will also no longer receive $5,000 in death benefits in retirement, another unnecessary change that costs more in morale than it saves financially.

This legislation does not take away any of the 1.5 percent cost-of-living allowance that retired teachers receive each year.  There had been serious discussion about removing or reducing those COLAs, which mimic raises received by those on Social Security, something teachers do not pay into.  It’s hard to call this good news, since the teachers pre-paid those COLAs while working and never should have been threatened with losing them, but this at least gives these retirees more certainty.

On the other hand, schools will now face additional costs, because they will have to contribute two percent of pay toward the retirements of teachers hired in 2019 and beyond.  This comes at a time when the schools are already having difficulty meeting basic needs.

I was proud that our area had the first public forum back last fall on possible retirement reforms, and that our region has been so well-represented in marches at the Capitol in recent days.

On a different but unrelated matter, I was deeply upset that the General Assembly approved a workers comp bill last week that will make it much tougher, if not impossible, for those with black lung to get their medical costs covered after a set amount of time.  This is a travesty, especially given recent reports indicating this debilitating disease is unfortunately back on the rise.  I cannot understand how anyone could be for hurting many of our coal miners and others suffering permanent injuries on the job.

On Monday this week, the General Assembly returned for one day to consider the budget and a revenue plan.  The secrecy that happened last Thursday was back this week, with other legislators and I having just hours to review a document that will guide $22 billion worth of state spending for the next two years and that will make significant tax changes for many years beyond that.  Even if you might support provisions in these bills, this Washington-style approach is not how laws should be enacted here in Kentucky.

I will cover those topics more next week.  For now, please continue letting me know your views by emailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling the toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.  Those with a hearing impairment can call 800-896-0305.

 

March 29, 2018

Lawrence County Democratic Woman’s Club will meet on April 5 in the fiscal courtroom. A light supper will be served at 5:30. Meeting begins at 6:00.

Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a presentation by Cara Broughton, Pathways Victim Services Director will be given.

All Democrats are welcome to attend.

--Kaye King

 



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