Kentucky-Backed Mill Owner Says ‘Right-To-Work’ Will Make Aluminum Cheap

Nov 10, 2017

Credit Becca Schimmel, WKU Public Radio

The head of the company that is planning to build a $1.3 billion aluminum plant in eastern Kentucky claims the state’s new right-to-work law will help it undercut competitors.

Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard said one of the company’s advantages is that it won’t require workers to join a union — unlike some other competitors in the aluminum business.

“We don’t have any work rules, we don’t have anybody telling us how to run the shop,”  Bouchard said at an event in Louisville Thursday. “We can do what is best for our company, our employees, our shareholders and our community and we know how to do it.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Matt Bevin cut a deal to attract Braidy to Kentucky. The state invested $15 million in Braidy stock and promised a combination of tax incentives that total more than $10 million.

The aluminum plant was originally slated to be located in South Shore, in Greenup County.

According to the Ashland Daily Independent, the company announced last month it would instead build in an industrial park that straddles Greenup and Boyd Counties, saying the original riverfront site couldn’t support the deep foundations necessary for the mill.

Right-To-Work

The state legislature passed a “right-to-work” law as one of its first actions under complete Republican control earlier this year. The law bans companies from requiring workers to pay union dues, even if employees have voted to unionize.

Bouchard said the law will help the company achieve a “low cost structure.”

“We will be the lowest-cost provider in the United States of our products. That will allow us to do more for our employees than those competitors could,” Bouchard said.

Bouchard said the company will hire more than 600 workers with starting salaries of $65,000, and divide five percent of the company’s profits among employees for yearly bonuses.

Bouchard claims that the company will be able to sell aluminum for half as much compared to the “next best” provider in the U.S.

“We are going to kill every single competitor to our company and hire their best people at the same time,” Bouchard said.

He said the company has already sold 500,000 tons of aluminum even though construction on the Braidy plant isn’t scheduled to begin until April 2018. It’s not expected to begin manufacturing until two years later.

Kentucky is one of the company’s eight original investors, which also include Bouchard and Charles Price, who owns a Louisville-based company that deals with coal ash.

Bouchard and Bevin refused to disclose the other investors in the company, though last month the Attorney General’s Office said the identities should be public because of the state’s investment in the company.

Though the state’s $15 million investment only represents a little more than 1 percent of the company’s construction costs, Bouchard said “it’s better than zero.”

“You want them to all have skin in the game, because then you’re all in the same boat, you’re rowing together,” Bouchard said.