I listened to a lengthy presentation last week by Braidy Industries Chief Executive Officer Craig Bouchard about the aluminum and metal alloys mill Bouchard’s team plans to construct at EastPark Industrial Center. 

The information he provided — and the fate of this project — are highly relevant to readers of this newspaper. Why? If this project succeeds, it has the potential to send a very significant economic wave through all of Eastern Kentucky.

The fact of the matter is most of the hype and press when it comes to Braidy Industries has focused on the potential benefits to Ashland, where the company is headquartered, and Greenup County, where there's been a lot of talk about infrastructure, land use and job growth. I've also written about the potential benefits for Carter County, which are certainly significant. This trio of counties make up the EastPark Industrial Center. But there is also a lot of potential benefits for Morehead and Rowan County as well.

During his presentation Bouchard made clear Braidy is on track to build this mill. The aluminum production mill, when complete, is expected to bring some 600 high-paying jobs to the region. The starting salary for those jobs is estimated to be about $65,000 a year. There would also be significant bonuses for all employees if the company makes a profit. 

There are a couple of other facts, however, often lost in the discussion on Braidy. One is Braidy is projecting hundreds of additional construction jobs will be needed to construct this mill. Fact two is if the Braidy mill goes as planned other companies are expected to crop up around the mill, i.e. even more jobs. During his presentation Bouchard made the following statement:

"We've had 10 or 12 companies negotiating with us to build the facilities around the mill … they are serving the same customers, automotive, aerospace … few other industries,” Bouchard said. "And the logistical advantages of sitting right next to us for their businesses is fantastic. We are going to pick about five of them and we know who the finalists are but there is still some negotiating...(still) some selecting to do and people are coming to our door every day.

“So in addition to our 600 jobs by rough count, it is not precise, but its about another 1,200 to 1,500 jobs coming from (elsewhere) to build around the mill," Bouchard said.

Imagine this for just a moment. More than a 1,000 good paying jobs just down interstate? I've worked all across the nation in the last 26 years. I can tell you with absolute certainty, without question, there are many, many communities across rural America that could only dream about the prospect of possibly having this type of project in their area. Now, there appears to be a solid likelihood this will be happening in ours.

Where are all of these workers going to eat? Where are they going to stay? Will they buy a house? Will they rent? Where will they spend their weekends off recreating? Where will they send their kids to college? These questions pose the immediate potential benefits to the communities closest to the mill. However, I suspect there will be a lot of answers to these questions that also point to Rowan County, and there are lots of long term economic prospects available to Morehead as well. The most obvious benefit in my view is the need for highly skilled, highly educated talent. What better place to find highly skilled, highly educated talent than at Morehead State? 

Another prospect for potential growth is in partnerships with Morehead State's amazing Space Science Center. Braidy's Bouchard toured the Space Science Center at Morehead State more than a year ago. A Braidy official said at the time “we are going to put some Braidy aluminum on the skin of one of those satellites." Another interesting aspect of Braidy is their subsidiary company Veloxint, which has used powder metallurgy technologies to make components stronger and lighter than traditional steel. Certainly sounds like another component that could fit well with a Space Science program. 

To be sure, there is a very long ways to go on this mill. It is one thing to talk about hundreds of new jobs and imagine what could be. It is another to actually make it happen. And, the big concern has always been whether Braidy can find a way to finance this mill. Yes, the company received some $15 million in seed investment from the state of Kentucky, but this is a drop in the bucket when it comes to building a mill like this. The estimates we've heard are the costs of the mill will approach $2 billion.

Bouchard indicated during the presentation at Ashland Community & Technical College that efforts are going well in regards to financing. The company is in an open window for raising money and Securities and Exchange Commission regulations prevent him from speaking in detail. He did say, however, that "our efforts to finance our company have gone spectacularly well. Beyond my expectations. Much better than I thought and we will have good news about that in some period of time."

There is lots of potential here for the entire Eastern Kentucky region to benefit. It doesn't just apply to Greenup, Carter and Boyd counties. Imagine a burgeoning space and science and aerospace region that blossoms across our area. The magnitude of this project, if successful, could have a profound impact on Rowan County. It is arguably one of the most important stories in this region in many, many years. 

We will keep you up to date on the progress of this mill and how it could impact the county in future editions.

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