HAZARD, KY -- American Woodmark Corp. plans to build a $20 million manufacturing facility near Hazard, which will create 230 new jobs.
The employee-training package offered by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc., (EKCEP) was one of the key components in the package of incentives which attracted American Woodmark to locate in eastern Kentucky.
The new 220,000-square-foot manufacturing facility will be one of several buildings which will occupy American Woodmark’s 30-acre site in the Coal Fields Industrial Park 7 miles north of Hazard on KY 15. The plant will process lumber into hardwood components used in kitchen and bathroom cabinets. American Woodmark is the nation’s third-largest cabinet manufacturer and the primary supplier of cabinets for Home Depot and Lowe’s stores.
Within two to three years the facility expects to employ 230 people. Of those 230, approximately 30 will fill salaried positions. Wages for the hourly workers will range from $9 to $14 per hour.
American Woodmark expects to break ground in early November. The plant will be the company’s twelfth overall, and its second in Kentucky. American Woodmark’s dimension mill in Wayne County opened in 1998 and will employ over 450 people by the end of 2002.
East Kentucky Corp., a publicly and privately funded economic development agency, played the major role in bringing American Woodmark to eastern Kentucky. Founded in 1989, East Kentucky Corp. specializes in putting together packages which offer labor, training incentives, low-cost utilities, financing, and tax credits to help companies expand or relocate in eastern Kentucky.
The employee training initiative that EKCEP offered was a crucial component of the benefits package, according to Tom Jones, executive director of East Kentucky Corp. and a member of the EKCEP Workforce Investment Board. Jones said that American Woodmark representatives noted several times during negotiations that the EKCEP training package was vastly superior to the training components offered by other states that were competing for the plant.
Bringing the new plant to eastern Kentucky required a unified, cooperative effort. In addition to East Kentucky Corp.’s work and EKCEP’s contribution, reaching an agreement required substantial involvement by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, local governments, and other state agencies.
“I want to commend Breathitt, Harlan, Leslie, and Perry counties for their cooperative effort in developing the Coal Fields Industrial Park and their work on this project,” said Gov. Paul Patton. “The future success of economic development efforts will rely on approaches that rise above political boundaries and help regions, not just individual communities. American Woodmark is a perfect example of Kentuckians overcoming these boundaries for the benefit of all.”
Gene Strong, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said developing and marketing regional industrial parks like the Coal Fields Industrial Park is one of his cabinet’s top priorities.
“We feel these will be a catalyst in creating economic development opportunities for citizens in our coal-producing counties. It is gratifying to see a concerted four-county effort in the creation of high quality jobs and enhancements to the quality of life of the entire region,” Strong said.
Kentucky officials were not the only ones pleased with the quality of the cooperative effort and its outcome. Company officials also expressed their pleasure with the decision to locate in eastern Kentucky and the way it was reached.
“We are delighted to announce that Hazard, Kentucky, has been selected as the location of our twelfth plant, and we are very grateful for the assistance we have received from the state of Kentucky,” said John W. LeVan, vice president of manufacturing for American Woodmark. “This will be our second manufacturing plant in Kentucky and this new state-of-the-art facility will make a contribution the local economy and help American Woodmark reach its long-term growth goals.”
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