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Kentucky senator seeks to recoup state’s $15M in EKY aluminum mill

It's been five years since the state of Kentucky handed over $15M to a private company, who has...
It's been five years since the state of Kentucky handed over $15M to a private company, who has yet to begin building an aluminum mill.(WSAZ)
Published: Jan. 8, 2022 at 9:27 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) - Five years after the state of Kentucky handed over millions of dollars to a private company with plans of a major economic development, a senator from Northern Kentucky is on the hunt to get it back.

Kentucky gave a $15 million investment into the project in 2017 after Braidy Industries, now called Unity Aluminum, promised to build a massive aluminum mill near Ashland.

To date, no such construction has happened. The 1.5 million square-foot facility was supposed to be finished by the second quarter of 2020. Company leaders told lawmakers in a committee meeting last fall, that they still had not secured all of the necessary funding to begin the project. At the September meeting, Nate Haney, Unity Senior Vice-President said they had raised $165 million of the necessary $1 billion.

They estimate it would take 30 to 36 months to construct the facility and the earliest production could begin would be 2025, five full years after the mill was set to be complete. The company’s website says it plans to create 1,000 jobs and invest $2.2B.

Senator Chris McDaniel, (R) Taylor Mill, filed Senate Bill 48 on Thursday after years of inaction and lost confidence in the company. As the chairman of the Kentucky Senate’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee, he tells WSAZ that taxpayers are paying the price of a failure by former Governor Matt Bevin.

“The people who should come to the table deliberately don’t come to the table because they know that they’re frauds,” he said. “They should be ashamed of who they are and what they are. But they’re not, because they continue to suck the money out of the taxpayers of Kentucky. My message would simply be what it was in that meeting, just give us the money back, I’ll leave you alone.”

The bill calls for Commonwealth Seed Capital, the state’s investment fund to recover the money, in addition to any fees, penalties or interest by the end of the year, otherwise, litigation from the Cabinet for Economic Development will follow.

“They’ve proven thus far to have no interest in doing that,” he said. “I really believe that they have done nothing more than take up office space and pay 23 people entirely too much money. They took a PPP loan from the federal government for millions of dollars, for what?”

Federal documents show the company was granted a Paycheck Protection Program loan for $1,469,400 on April 7, 2020. That loan has since been forgiven.

Another loan was granted on February 13, 2021 for $1,395,700.

Last fall, Governor Andy Beshear addressed some of the concerns during a press conference.

“I have concern whether or not we can even get the land back,” he said. “Even if they don’t begin to operate. It’s put us in the position of not having much of a choice in the initial run to see if they can succeed. I understand every lawmaker who is concerned. I understand exactly where they’re coming from. I believe we’re all on the same page. Let’s talk about options we really have versus what we don’t.”

He says he’d like to see executive action from Governor Andy Beshear and hopefully won’t need the bill moving forward.

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