A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Making the largest economic development project in Kentucky’s history a reality was a long time coming

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The process that resulted in Monday’s announcement of Ford Motor Company and SK Innovation building two plants to manufacture electric vehicle batteries in Hardin County was a long time coming.

“We’ve been fighting for this opportunity for months and months,” the governor told Kentucky Today. “It’s a process that has included the Cabinet for Economic Development; local officials in Hardin County, the mayor, the county judge; the Industrial Development Authority; all of whom worked hard. A lot of credit goes to the legislature. We were briefing leadership during some of the process, and they stepped up and quickly passed Senate Bill 5, which showed Ford that we know how to get things done.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said several helped bring the Ford battery plant jobs to Kentucky. The $5.8 billion investment is the biggest in state history. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Beshear said officials in his Administration were relentless, “knowing that this is a key to our economic future. I’ve personally been on a number of occasions where I had the opportunity to look Ford executives in the eye and say, I know that this isn’t just transformational for us, it is for you, too. And that wherever they selected, they would be betting the future of their company on that state. I told them I planned on being Governor the whole time they were building, and I would not let them down.”

SB 5, which passed the General Assembly during the special session early this month, provided more than $410 million for economic incentives, training facilities and more, to attract large projects where companies agreed to invest over $2 billion. This project has a $5.8 billion investment commitment from Ford and SK Innovation, easily meeting the threshold.

The governor described the state’s investment in the deal. “A $250 million forgivable loan, that is based on performance, on Ford substantially meeting the projections of jobs and investments. It includes the conveyance of 1,500 acres of land in Glendale, and about $36 million in training.”

That means more money is still available for more large projects from provisions of SB 5.

“As you can tell, there are significant funds, if we have another project that would exceed $2 billion and we are at least in the running for five to six potential projects in that range,” he stated.

The governor pointed out that these projects that have come to fruition so far and others in the works are not all in the so-called “Golden Triangle” of Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky. “We are not only a destination that is being looked at for the future, but all parts of our state are in play and are going to see amazing opportunities.”

An event on Tuesday on the grounds of the State Capitol officially announced the largest industrial investment in Kentucky history.

Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford spoke at the event and took a moment to brag on Ford employees in Kentucky for the special actions they took when the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We changed our production lines almost overnight, to make lifesaving PPE for frontline workers. And our Kentucky-based employees were critical to that effort.”

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