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Two new economic development projects to bring new jobs, more than $120 million investment to NKY

Staff Report

Two new projects announced Thursday will bring a combined $122 Million investment and 425 new jobs for Northern Kentucky.

Agritech company 80 Acres Farms plans to locate a new vertical farming facility in Boone County, which will create 125 jobs with a $74 million investment.

CEO Mike Zelkind, 80 Acres Farm

Levi Strauss & Co. will establish a new e-commerce distribution center in Erlanger, creating approximately 300 jobs with a $48 million-plus investment.

80 Acres Farm

The 80 Acres Farm operation will locate in an existing 200,000-square-foot building on more than 22 acres. The facility will be converted into a vertical farming operation to serve the local market and is expected to begin operations in third quarter 2022. It will include a high-tech indoor vertical farm and harvesting, packaging, and distribution capabilities for leafy greens, microgreens, berries and tomatoes. Once fully operational, the controlled-environment farm will produce millions of servings of local, fresh produce for the surrounding area.

“Opening a farm in Boone County will allow us to grow closer to our retail partners in Lexington and Louisville and introduce our fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to many more Kentuckians,” said 80 Acres CEO Mike Zelkind. “We’re always looking for ways to increase our impact, and this farm is the biggest step forward for us yet, more than doubling our total production and growing our footprint outside Ohio.”

80 Acres Farms specializes in indoor vertical farming operations (Photo from 80 Acres Farms)

Founded in 2015, 80 Acres operates indoor farms using 100% renewable energy and without the use of pesticides. The company’s flagship farm, located in Hamilton, Ohio, has capacity to grow 10 million servings of produce annually. 80 Acres currently operates eight farms and produces a range of food products, including salad blends, microgreens, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers, with plans to begin production of strawberries. The company supplies more than 300 Kroger stores nationwide, as well as other regional grocers.

“80 Acres is on an impressive growth trajectory, and we are thrilled to have their first location in Kentucky in Boone County,” said Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore. “We welcome the 125 new, high-paying agribusiness jobs and the first high-tech, vertical indoor farm in Northern Kentucky.”

Kentucky’s food, beverage and agritech sector continues to grow with the addition of 80 Acres. Currently, the industry includes more than 350 facilities and employs over 52,000 people. Since the start of 2020, new location and expansion projects within the industry are expected to create more than 2,600 full-time jobs with over $1.8 billion in new investments.

“Agritech growth is a major part of our effort to create a sustainable economy that works for all Kentuckians, and I am very pleased to welcome 80 Acres Farms to the commonwealth,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “These well-paying jobs will create quality opportunities for our workforce. I want to thank the company’s leaders for locating in Kentucky and I can’t wait to see the facility up and running this year.”

(Photo form Levi Strauss and Co.)

Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co. plans to lease and upgrade an existing 575,700-square-foot facility at 660 Erlanger Road, to boost the company’s rapidly growing e-commerce business and better serve its customers throughout the Eastern U.S. Company leadership anticipates the project will create 300 new full-time positions with an average hourly compensation of $27.13, including benefits. Work on the project is expected to begin in February and be completed for operations in early 2023.

This project builds on the company’s current presence in the state, which includes two distribution-related facilities in Hebron, where it employs approximately 300 people in total.

“We are excited to expand both our commercial relationship with Kentucky and our distribution network for American consumers,” said Stephen Berube, senior vice president of Global Logistics and Distribution at Levi Strauss & Co. “We’ve seen in our existing facilities that the commonwealth has been a terrific partner to date, and we know that its top-tier workforce can help us execute on our plans going forward.”

Founded in 1853, San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the world’s largest brand name apparel companies and a global leader in jeanswear. The company designs and markets jeans, casual wear and related accessories for men, women and children under the Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co., Denizen and Beyond Yoga brands. Its products are sold in more than 110 countries worldwide through a combination of chain retailers, department stores, online sites and a global footprint of approximately 3,000 brand-dedicated stores and shop-in-shops. Levi Strauss & Co.’s reported 2020 net revenues were $4.5 billion.

“Levi Strauss & Co. was recognized in the top 20 of the world’s most reputable companies on the 2021 Global RepTrak 100 list and has strong corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs,” said Lee Crume, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development. “We’re glad to add a third Levi Strauss & Co. operation and expand their involvement in Northern Kentucky.”

The company’s planned investment adds to a growing logistics and distribution sector in the Commonwealth. In 2021, companies within the sector announced more than 1,000 full-time, Kentucky-resident jobs across more than 30 facility expansion and new-location projects with $181.7 million in private-sector investment in the Commonwealth.

Featured photo: Rendering of 80 Acres Farm Boone facility

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