Kentucky’s $15 million investment in a promised northeastern Kentucky aluminum mill that was never built is being returned to the state, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
Braidy Industries, now called Unity Aluminum, received the multimillion dollar investment from the state in 2017 with approval from the legislature and then-Gov. Matt Bevin. By 2020, the company was supposed to build a $1.7 billion mill near Ashland and employ more than 500 people in good-paying jobs in an area where they’re sorely needed, but the project never materialized.
Beshear called the announcement “incredible” and “one that I did not think I would be able to make as governor.”
The 205-acre property will also be donated back to the original owner, the Northeast Kentucky Regional Industrial Authority, Beshear said. Negotiations are also underway for Unity and Steel Dynamics Inc. to sell additional property to the authority for less than the original sale price.
“So obviously, the best outcome of this would be if that aluminum mill had been built, but we’ve known for years now that wasn’t going to happen,” Beshear said. “Today, we got the Commonwealth’s investment back. We got the property to locate something real and exciting. This is a better outcome than I ever thought was possible.”
The money will be returned to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority via Commonwealth Seed Capital. Unless otherwise directed by the legislature, the money will eventually be used “to facilitate a private sector investment of at least $1 billion in one or more locations in the commonwealth,” according to Beshear’s office.
Beshear said the land is “prime and it is ready, and had we had possession of it, we could have located something else on it already by now. There is already interest.
“My promise to the people of the Ashland region is when we make an announcement, it’s going to be real, jobs are going to be real and it’s going to be really exciting for the community,” he said.
Economic Development Secretary Jeff Noel gave credit to his team and Rocky Adkins, a former state representative from Eastern Kentucky and senior adviser to Beshear, for bringing the deal to fruition.
“We worked to find a win-win solution,” Noel said of the state and Unity and SDI.
Beshear, the Democratic attorney general who ousted first-term Republican Bevin in 2019, had previously called the investment the “worst and shadiest economic deal” in the state’s history.
Bevin, who has reportedly been mulling another run for the governor’s office in 2023, hailed the project in 2017 as “transformative.”
“That’s going to be one of the best investments the state has ever made,” he said in a radio interview.
Matt Bevin blew $15 million in taxpayer dollars on a failed project for an aluminum plant that never got built.@AndyBeshearKY just got every dime back.
(And the land too.)
— Kentucky Democrats (@KyDems) September 29, 2022
Earlier this year, Kentucky’s Senate unanimously passed a bill to recoup the $15 million investment and any interest, penalties and fees, but it died in the House of Representatives without receiving a vote.
“I think they just didn’t like the concept. I wish I could expand more than that, but from the limited amount we’ve talked, they just weren’t interested in taking it up,” Sponsor Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, said at the time.
McDaniel issued a statement Thursday saying he was happy to see the taxpayer dollars returned — “albeit far too late.”
He said he remains “utterly disappointed the people of Ashland and eastern Kentucky will not have an aluminum mill they, and lawmakers, were led to believe would come to fruition.”