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Braidy Industries could leave a big mark on region

June 8, 2018

Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard is greeted by guests after speaking during a groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new aluminum mill June 1 at the EastPark Industrial Center in Ashland. If the plant progresses as hoped, it could have a transformative impact on the entire region, including southern West Virginia.

The eastern Kentucky region is all-in on Braidy Industries, the company behind a planned $1.5 billion aluminum rolling mill that intends to supply high-quality metal for the transportation industries and economic revitalization to the area it’s chosen to call home.

Like neighboring areas, Ashland is familiar with the sting of layoffs — job restructurings that upend families’ lives and cause ripple effects through the community. But now, city and county officials hope residents will feel the reverberations of something else — hope.

It was a word tossed out several times at the hours-long groundbreaking and community celebrations that took place in Boyd County last week, as people considered the plans laid out before them — plans for hundreds of jobs, good pay and benefits, and growth potential for the new company.

“It’s an exciting moment for this area,” 68-year-old Tom Hilgendorf, of Ashland, told the Courier-Journal. “Everybody’s been holding their breath, I think, waiting for this moment.”

With every step the company takes forward, then, comes a slow exhale. On May 31, just about 24 hours before it was set to break ground, Braidy Industries announced its additional $3.4 million investment to acquire additional land and buildings at the EastPark Industrial Center, the site chosen for the original massive mill, for its ultra-high-strength alloy subsidiary, Veloxint.

“I have waited 24 years for a project like this to come to Greenup County, Kentucky,” Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter said at the groundbreaking. “This project and what will follow will change our county for generations to come.”

For all the lure of the incentives Gov. Matt Bevin put together to win Braidy over from the 24 other sites reportedly vying for it, it seems as though CEO Craig Bouchard is all in on eastern Kentucky and its people, too.

“We have to execute. We have to prove ourselves. This community has shown the welcome of all time for us,” Bouchard told the Courier-Journal. “We have to earn what they’re saying about us, and we’re going to do that.”

Bouchard has homed in on the theme “One Family” as Braidy moves forward in an area that has secured one “win” with first landing the mill, and more potentially to come. He said his company’s mission is not simply to make aluminum, but rather to rebuild northeast Kentucky and all parts of Appalachia.

“We will succeed together, as one family,” Bouchard said.

Family is about lifting each other up, keeping commitments to each other, and leaving a legacy. Bouchard’s focus on the region’s people as assets he has invested in will continue to serve him well going forward, and could, indeed, be truly transformative.

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