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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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February 14, 2018


LAWRENCE COUNTY  –  CSX plans to replace railroad ties at two crossings in downtown Louisa. The first work is scheduled February 27- March 3 at the Madison Street crossing near Speedway.

The second crossing, on Jefferson Street at Jackson Brothers Auto, will be done some time in March.

Highway District 12’s Permit Engineer, Jody Hunt, said that message boards will be set up in advance to notify people that the crossings will be closed to traffic. There will also be detour signs that motorists can use to avoid the work zone.

“Oh behalf of CSX, we want to thank people for their patience and understanding during this time,” said Andrea Janka of Safety Services & Supply, a CSX contractor on this job. “We know this is a temporary inconvenience for people, but we also know that the railroad crossings will be much smoother and safer when the work is finished.”



February 12, 2018

As of last week, 5,500 people had filled out applications

Craig Bouchard has only to look outside the window of his downtown office in this northeastern Kentucky city for motivation.

Ashland is a shell of what it used to be. But if Bouchard has his way, that will change.

Bouchard, chairman and CEO of Braidy Industries, is leading an ambitious initiative to build a $1.3 billion state-of-the-art aluminum rolling mill in an area that hasn’t had positive economic news in almost 30 years. In less than two months, Braidy plans to break ground on a greenfield rolling mill that is named after one of Bouchard’s six children.

For people in the northeastern Kentucky area, news of hundreds of high-paying jobs has restored hope.

“We chose here because of these families,” Bouchard said. “We’re taking on that job and I think we’re going to succeed. These people have been pushed around long enough. I feel the weight of these 10,000 families on my shoulders every day. This crowd in Ashland, they’ll do it.”

Bouchard’s sparkling new office, located on the refurbished third floor of a bank building, already has some local roots in it. A print given to him by Gov. Matt Bevin hangs on one wall. A photo of Greenup County High School’s national championship cheerleaders is framed on a shelf along with books from local authors.

Craig Bouchard, the chairman and CEO of Braidy Industries, says the aluminum rolling mill plant will change economic dynamics in northeastern Kentucky. (Photo by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today)Craig Bouchard, the chairman and CEO of Braidy Industries, says the aluminum rolling mill plant will change economic dynamics in northeastern Kentucky. (Photo by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today)Before he knew much about the area, he heard of the 16-time national championship squad and decided, if the people there have that kind of discipline and determination, they have what it takes to succeed.

And there’s this: his wife, Melissa, is a former tennis player for the University of Kentucky. So, some Big Blue is in the family, too.

Bouchard immediately got everyone’s attention when he announced that the plant would hire 550 workers with starting pay of between $50,000 to $70,000 annually – about twice the median income in the area – with benefits, a fitness facility and a day care. As of last week, 5,500 people had filled out applications, some coming with personal appeals, including one from a grandmother pleading to know how her grandson could become an employee.

Another 1,000 local laborers are expected to be part of the plant construction over the next two years. Braidy hopes to be running by 2020 and have already sold 160 percent of the product, which will take them into phase two of a plant that will eventually produce more than 900,000 tons of aluminum annually.

But Bouchard, 64, said his plant’s employment won’t be the end of it. Other satellite companies – at least 10 – are already talking about coming, he said. The ripple effect could create thousands of additional jobs in an area that has taken some punches.

Once an employment hub, the Ashland area has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs, especially in the last 20 years. In 1998, Ashland Oil relocated to northern Kentucky. Two years ago, AK Steel laid off 600 workers. Last year, CSX Railroad sliced 100 jobs because of reduced traffic from the coal mines.

Last March, during the final hours of the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved the Bevin administration’s request for a $15 million incentive for what was described at the time as a mystery economic development project.

About a month later, Bevin announced Braidy Industries would be building the massive aluminum rolling mill. The $15 million was transferred to Commonwealth Seed Capital, a limited liability company that’s owned by the state and is listed as one of the shareholders. Commonwealth Seed Capital invested the money in Braidy Industries but has the option to sell its shares back to Braidy if the company fails to start building the mill by June 30, 2018, or if Braidy doesn’t invest a minimum of $1 billion in the mill by June 30, 2020.

Northeastern Kentucky competed with 23 others for the rolling mill and the logistics favored Ashland, largely because of its skilled workforce, and Kentucky’s tax incentives along with low-cost electricity. But if Gov. Bevin had not signed right-to-work legislation in January 2017, the plant would have gone to someone else, Bouchard said.

The state has agreed to potentially provide more than $12 million in tax incentives to the company. Up to $10 million of those incentives are tied to hitting job numbers and wage targets over a 15-year period. The other $2.5 million in incentives is meant to offset taxes on construction materials.

It would not be wise to confuse Bouchard’s affable personality with his business persona. He likes to say kindness doesn’t mean weakness.

“Some people try to take advantage of me because I like to say yes and I like to help,” Bouchard said. “But it’s the wrong image in my opinion that I’m a very kind person. But as the general (Blaine Holt) would tell you, you shouldn’t confuse kindness with weakness because I’m not a very weak person in business.”

Billion dollar businesses

He learned the business through derivative trading and has recruited management teams that have built three billion-dollar companies. He clearly expects Braidy to be No. 4. The shrewd businessman has won three highly visible hostile takeovers. He and his younger brother, Jim, bought a bankrupt Chicago steel company in 2003 and in five years turned Esmark into the nation’s fourth-largest steel conglomerate, selling it in 2008.

It was sold it to Russian steelmaker Severstal shortly before the stock market and steel industry crashed and thousands were laid off. Bouchard said he wanted to sell a partnership stake to an Indian company, Essar Steel, that would have cleared debt.

Bouchard resigned from the board of directors of Real Industry Inc., an aluminum mill in Chicago, in August 2016 because of a “difference in opinion with some board members over the company’s future strategy” even after the company had grown from $40 million in revenue to $1.5 billion.

“It was an easy decision for all,” he said. “They pursued their strategy and I chose to build an aluminum mill in Ashland, Kentucky.”

Bouchard said his success has come from his ability to recruit superior management teams. Braidy’s executive management team includes retired military personnel and veterans of the steel industry, like Braidy Executive Vice President Tom Modrowski, who has 38 years of experience in metal works and will direct the design, installation, setup and subsequent management of a plant that produces nearly 900,000 tons annual of exposed coated metal sheet product.

Alan Blankshain is the executive vice president of Engineering for Braidy and a 24-year veteran of various senior operational and management positions.

“Nobody here has planned for second place,” Blankshain said. “We fully expect this to be the highest quality facility in the United States.”

It will be the first new aluminum mill built in almost 30 years. “It’s great to have a collaborative team here,” Blankshain said.

The management group wasn’t sure about the northeastern Kentucky area at first glance, he said.

“We were here on a foggy day and couldn’t even hardly see what we were looking at,” he said. “The Ashland Alliance came back with a workforce study and how there were 300,000 people within an hour’s drive, so we took another look.”

Military-minded company

So far, Bouchard has hired 20 management executives for the third-floor offices that were built in 90 days by J&J General Maintenance Inc. There are 14 offices and the company is leasing the floor above that will include 25 offices. The number of workers in the headquarters will rise to 65 in the coming months.

The new office has a bright, cutting edge look to it with plenty of space and includes what Braidy calls its “War Room” with several enormous screens around the room, all churning statistics throughout the day about the aluminum industry. He has hired three retired military officers to operate the War Room, which is designed like the ones the military uses, to follow every move of the competition through drone technology, social media monitoring, the internet and the dark web to secure information now naked in the public domain.

The company is going to customers and asking them exactly what they need and fitting the new plant to those desires and specifications.

Brigadier Gen. (ret.) Blaine Holt, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, is the Chief Operating Officer and general strategist for the company. Navy Captain (ret.) Dave Shealy runs the War Room along with Col. (ret.) Curtis Carson, a senior VP and head of human resources, who has expertise in training design and strategic planning.

“We’re going to change the world, absolutely rip the cover off the ball,” Holt said. “We’re not going to do it with swagger or arrogance but be humble and hungry. That’s what it takes to be on the Braidy team.”

They meet every Wednesday in the War Room, either in person or via technology, to glean the statistics and talk strategic maneuvers. “We do competitive analysis better than any company I’ve ever seen,” Bouchard said. “It’s thorough and web-driven. Our military leaders brought intelligence-gathering skills my previous companies didn’t possess.”

Julie Kavanaugh, the chief of staff for administration, has more than 30 years of experience in her field. She has been Bouchard’s executive assistant for 3 ½ years, making all of his travel plans as he jets around the world. She spent several years as an administrator with the Chicago Blackhawks and sometimes, on special occasions, pulls out her 2010 Stanley Cup ring, like when she met Bouchard. “It’s a good conversation starter,” she said.

Kavanaugh’s first job with Braidy was to oversee the design and completion of the corporate office in 90 days.

Braidy Industries goal is to become the nation’s leading producer of high-quality aluminum for the auto industry and of ultra-high strength alloys for the aerospace industry.

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

February 11, 2018

EnerBlü CEO: It’s ‘refreshing’ to see ‘high-quality’ East Ky. workforce

EnerBlü’s December announcement that it would be bringing its battery manufacturing facility to the commonwealth created a boom of interest for Kentuckians — current and former — who are looking for a chance to put their skills to work.

According to EnerBlü President and CEO Daniel Elliott, his company has received more than 1,200 applications since the City of Pikeville hosted its economic development announcement at the East Kentucky Expo Center. 

Elliott said the company has identified two potential buildings for its Lexington location, which will begin operating while the Pikeville structure is under construction and will serve as a corporate office for the company. Elliott said negotiations are currently ongoing, in terms of finance, power and spacial issues. But, he added, the Pikeville location is still very much a priority.

“We are — and have been for the last month — in pretty detailed engineering meetings,” said Elliott. “The engineering (for the Pikeville location) has been progressing forward and we are, I think, pretty close to deciding on a design-build firm to work with, anticipating that we will start to break ground in the spring.”

Elliott said there isn’t a concrete date for construction at this point but, he said, interviews for positions have started. 

“We have started interviews for people from Kentucky. We’ve got about 1,200 or 1,300 applicants at this point, from all sorts of different disciplines,”said Elliott.

He said applicants for several different positions have applied: From environmental heath safety to sales and accounting. 

President Michael Weber and CEO Daniel Elliot of EnerBlu...President Michael Weber and CEO Daniel Elliot of EnerBlu...

“I’d say probably about 1,100 of those applicants are from the Pikeville area or the Eastern Kentucky region,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of applicants that are wanting to go back and a lot that are still there. But, a lot of them actually, are living elsewhere and saw this and said they wanted to get back to Pikeville — to where their hometown is, where their family is.”

He said interviews are underway and he encourages anyone who applied, but hasn’t heard back, to “hold on.”

“It’s a process, but we’re currently interviewing and are anticipating starting to make some hires,” he said.

He said he has found a home in Lexington and is “shopping for one in Pikeville,” because he plans to have a home in both cities. He also said many of EnerBlü’s executives have already made the move to the commonwealth. 

“So, there are several of us now that are moving,” he said. “And our facility out here in California is actually for sale. We listed it because we are going to move out of this completely and move everything. The target is: We would be fully operational a few months from now, in Lexington, while we work on the design-build plans for Pikeville.”

Elliott said there will be a delay in bringing the major equipment from the current EnerBlü base in South Korea.

“We are going to leave the equipment in South Korea for now, have it produce cells, and bring those cells over to Kentucky where we will build the packs and systems,” said Elliott. 

According to Elliott, moving the major equipment right away would not be sustainable for the demands of EnerBlü’s already over-extended output plans. 

“It’s going to put us way behind,” said Elliott. “So, we will do the training first and the work first on the system level … because we have orders outstanding, right now, for those systems. So, those are the positions we’re interviewing for right now primarily: For welders, fabricators, some in the electronic engineering space.”

He said the company is currently reviewing applications and looking into universities for these specific types of workers, but added that the current applicants have more than exceeded expectations.

According to Elliott, EnerBlü has received investment interest from another power company, outside of American Electric Power. He said this interest shows the potential for the EnerBlü’s product, but also shows a validation for Eastern Kentucky’s workforce. 

“We are really getting high-quality people. It’s everything from their experience set, their background and their training, but also how they present themselves. They’re taking time to write very thoughtful introductory letters, or cover letters, as they’re uploading them onto our website,” Elliott said. “The vast majority of what we need — I would say 95 percent or more — of what we’re going to need is going to come out of that East Kentucky region. We’re really getting good, quality applicants.”

Elliott said the ONE East Kentucky workforce study was a major selling point for EnerBlü.

“Chuck Sexton and ONE East Kentucky presented to us the research that they had done, and presented to us on what the workforce was — or should be,” Elliott said. “In fact, it’s as good as they said or even better, frankly. We are really seeing high-quality applicants … it’s refreshing to see.”

According to Elliott, the EnerBlü team is excited for this move and all the challenges involved. He said the building process may be a battle, but he wants to encourage the community not to let a lack of current structure give them the wrong idea.

“We’re putting up what I would call a pretty heavy building on that site. So, there’s some mitigation work that needs to be done, but it’s all doable and something that we’re picking the challenge up,” Elliott said. 

Elliott said nothing about the project has swayed the company against its decision to locate in Kentucky.

“In fact, it’s rather the opposite,” he said. “We’re more emboldened and encouraged today than we were when we announced this thing a month ago.”

By Buddy Forbes
Appalachian News-Express