Eastern Kentucky’s Economic Revival: New Aluminum Smelter to Create 1,000 Jobs


North Eastern Kentucky has been chosen by an aluminum company as the best place to build a new aluminum smelter. Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday that the smelter would bring about 1,000 permanent jobs to an Appalachian area that has been hit hard by the loss of coal and steel production.

The U.S. Department of Energy will give $500 million to Century Aluminum Co. to help them build a smelter that makes a lot less pollution. Beshear said that the project could become the biggest investment ever made in eastern Kentucky.

At a news gathering, the governor said, “There are still a lot of steps we need to take to make this happen.” “But this is the first big step.”

A package of state benefits is what the governor hopes will help close the deal. He said that in the last few days of their session, state leaders would give us “the tools that we need.”

A statement from the company’s president and CEO, Jesse Gary, said that a “myriad of steps” still need to be taken and that several sites are still being considered, but that northeastern Kentucky is the best choice. He said that building costs for sites being considered, utility costs, workforce, and incentives are still things that need to be worked out.

Century Aluminum has two aluminum smelters in western Kentucky. The company is based in Chicago but has a big influence in the Bluegrass State.

Gary said that Monday’s news was “another step in our continued long-standing relationship with the state. We look forward to the chance to help be a part of growing commerce in eastern Kentucky, which is very appealing to Century Aluminum.”

Eastern Kentucky’s Economic Revival New Aluminum Smelter to Create 1,000 Jobs

Century says it makes more raw aluminum than any other company in the US and also has factories in Iceland, the Netherlands, and Jamaica.

There was a lot of damage done to northeastern Kentucky a few years ago when a steel mill that had been there for generations closed. Over the last ten years, the sharp drop in coal work has made things hard in eastern Kentucky as a whole. This is because less and less people want to use coal.

A few years ago, the area’s dreams of getting a huge aluminum plant were dashed. It was the idea of a different aluminum business to build a mill near Ashland in northeastern Kentucky. However, the company had trouble getting enough money for the project, which was pushed by Beshear’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Now, Beshear, who beat Bevin in 2019, is trying to deliver on what he calls a “game-changing project” for the area and keep up the record-setting rate of economic growth the state saw under Bevin. Beshear was elected to a second term last year in a state that has become mostly Republican. He was seen as a rising star in his party.

A new chance for an aluminum mill to open in the area is an “incredible opportunity” for a place that has “been through the wringer,” said Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney, who was one of several leaders in the area who attended the news conference with Beshear.

After the interview, Chaney said on the phone, “We’re going to work hard to help get this over the finish line.” “This is a great chance for the whole state of Kentucky and northeast Kentucky.”

He said that the project would create about 5,500 building jobs and then about 1,000 permanent union jobs. He said that the new smelter would use carbon-free energy and double the size of the U.S.’s main aluminum business. It would also avoid about 75% of the emissions that come from traditional smelters because it is so energy-efficient and uses cutting-edge technology.

It was said in a separate news release that the new plant would be the world’s cleanest and most efficient aluminum mill.

Beshear said that the new plant’s aluminum will be used in green energy, electric cars, semiconductors, building and construction, and national defense.

Even though there are still a lot of choices to be made, Beshear stressed how important it was that the federal government give the project $500 million. The Industrial Demonstrations Program at DOE gave the money, and the governor thanked President Joe Biden, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and other people.

But Beshear said, “We all know it’s not a done deal and there is more work to be done. A $500 million grant, if it is built in this region, is a pretty good place to start.”

Beshear announced last week that Rye Development wants to build a $1.3 billion pumped storage hydropower plant on the site of an old coal mine in Bell County, which is in the southeast of Kentucky. With the help of a government grant, the project will create about 1,500 construction jobs, 30 operations jobs, and enough energy each year to power almost 67,000 homes.

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