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Sen. Chris McDaniel files bill to recover $15m given to then-Braidy Industries for plant never built

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

NKY’s Sen. Chris McDaniel, chairman of the Kentucky Senate’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee, has filed legislation to recover $15 million appropriated as an economic development incentive for a proposed aluminum plant in the Ashland area that has never been built.

McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, filed the bill on Thursday to recover the money which was awarded at the behest of then-Gov. Matt Bevin, on the final day of the 2017 legislative session. The name of the company was not released at the time, but later become known as Braidy Industries.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, filed a bill that would require Unity Aluminum to return the $15 million investment the state made in 2017 when it was known as Braidy Industries, a proposed aluminum plant in northeastern Kentucky. (LRC photo)

The 1.8 million-square-foot facility, which was to be built on more than 240 acres in the EastPark Industrial Center near Ashland, was originally expected to open in the second quarter of 2020, with a capacity of 300,000 tons of aluminum alloy sheet and plate a year, mainly for the automotive industry.

That goal has been pushed back several times, the latest start date being in 2025, due to issues with getting the rest of the financing needed to bring the project to fruition.

After Braidy founder Craig Bouchard was ousted by the company’s board of directors, who paid him $6 million to settle a lawsuit he filed against the firm, the company changed its name in October 2020 to Unity Aluminum.

Last fall, company officials were grilled by lawmakers during a committee meeting, due to the lack of progress on the project.  At that time, McDaniel asked them, “Why don’t you repay your $15 million to the state, and not have us continue to ask these questions?”

Unity Senior Vice-President Nate Haney, who served for a year in the Bevin administration, but before the Braidy project came to light, replied, “During this financing period, that is something we have to keep confidential.”

McDaniel responded to that by saying, “I believe one of the worst financial votes I’ve ever taken is this one. I feel like two administrations now and multiple General Assemblies have been played for fools and ridden down the road. I think that patience is largely worn thin.”

The bill, introduced Thursday and designated Senate Bill 48, calls for Commonwealth Seed Capital, the state’s investment arm, to recover the full $15 million, along with interest, penalties, and fees, by the end of the year. 
If the money is not received by then, the Cabinet for Economic Development would be directed to immediately proceed with litigation to recover the full amount, including interest, penalties, and fees.

As of Friday afternoon, the bill had not yet been assigned to a committee.

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