Manufacturers from around the world find room to grow in Northern Kentucky

Manufacturers from around the world find room to grow in Northern Kentucky

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.”

See full article by Susan Gosselin with a listing of Northern KY manufacturers at The Lane Report.

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