Start-up company interested in building plant in Crab Orchard

May 28, 2004|EMILY BURTON

CRAB ORCHARD - The city commission's ambitious revitalization plans have drawn the interest of a start-up company that is expected to bring 200 new jobs to a flatline economy.

A new metal stamping plant, ERJ Manufacturing Inc. of Ky., is slated to be built on 57 acres east of Crab Orchard on U.S. 150. The land is partially in the city limits but the rest will be annexed by completion, said Mayor Mike Ramey.

The 200,000 square foot plant will form sheet metal into parts for the automotive industry, appliances and electronics as well as weld and assemble the parts. It is the brainchild of Danville's Joetta Young, who said the business would be based on "pride, respect, quality and employee ownership."

After the factory is established, employees will have the option to purchase shares in the company, said Young.

Young said it could take two years to reach full capacity and that wages will range from $8-$10 per hour for plain labor and up to $13 per hour for management. The startup workforce will require 20-40 people.


Her idea for the stamping factory came from 16 years in the industry as both a manager and line worker, said Young, but also as a witness to the area's unemployed.

"There are so many people who don't have their degrees, but they're intelligent people, and they have talent, but nobody wants to give them a chance," said Young.

Young has considerable experience in manufacturing

Young's experience includes a stint as a production supervisor at Hitachi Automotive Products USA, Matsushita, management at Wise Manufacturing in Frankfort and Lincoln Manufacturing, as well as various positions in quality engineering, electronic engineering and industrial engineering. She has her associate's degree in electronic engineering, her bachelor's in industrial engineering and her master's in quality control management.

"I just feel like the Lord is leading me into this to help the people," said Young.

The factory plan had been pitched in several counties, including for Lincoln's new industrial park, but Judge-executive R.W. "Buckwheat" Gilbert said the park was not near completion at the time and funding wasn't available.

"Nobody was able to help the way I needed," said Young. "I'm a single person. I'm building this from scratch, and it's a hard thing to do... (Mayor) Mike has really gone out on the line to help us."

Young said she already had a man working to gather customers for ERJ in the automotive industry.

This industrial growth is making history, said Ramey. "Nothing like this has happened in Crab Orchard for 100 years."

After the long ago demise of the springs and a hotel, a popular vacation spot, the city has been surviving but not thriving, said Ramey. In mid-June, the lull could end with the official groundbreaking ceremony for the factory.

"Any factory in Lincoln County will help the county. It doesn't matter if it's in Hustonville or Crab Orchard or Stanford. I hope to God it happens for them," said Gilbert.

Commission holds first reading of $300,000 pledge

On Thursday evening, the city commission met to hold a first reading of a general obligation pledge of $300,000 to Fifth-Third Bank to secure the land for the factory. Additional funding for the company is expected to come through state and federal grants, said Ramey. After the city has procured those grants, they will then lend them out to the factory, taking on the air of a capital lease program.

"I am working with the mayor, and the city can get a lot of grant money that can help fund ERJ. The city will basically be a bank for ERJ," explained Young.

Ramey said the factory would repay Crab Orchard for the grants ERJ used, and in addition give the city 1 percent of the net profits. The money will go toward such necessary improvements the city could not previously afford, such as fire equipment and more police officers, said Ramey.

"The city will have the possibility of making a great deal of money," said Young. "I'm looking to be successful, and being successful means having a company that people can take pride in."

Mayor hopes to expand city limits

The mayor said he hopes to build on the growing industry in the area by expanding city limits. The city commission has been working for several months on an annexation plan that would bring in land poised for growth on the banks of Cedar Creek Lake. The proposed annexation would extend down William Whitley Road to Cedar Creek Lake and from Ky. 1770 to U.S. 150.

Ramey said he was planning ahead for the new lake's popularity.

The prime waterfront property and new highway will bring new subdivisions, homes and businesses, said Ramey. Now is the time to capitalize on the growth, said Ramey.

Earlier this week, 35 of 62 property owners in the proposed area signed a petition against the annexation and submitted it to City Hall. It was a move that stopped the annexation from becoming law by a second reading of the ordinance.

"From what I've heard, they just didn't want to be in city limits, period," said Ramey.

The annexation will now be decided by ballot in November, said Ramey. At least 55 percent of the citizens inside the area must vote against it for the annexation to fail.

The annexation into city limits would bring the area new water and sewer lines and an increase in fire and police services.

Despite initial conflict, Ramey said he hopes the citizens in the proposed annexation area will realize what benefits the city limits would bring.

"I believe people will come around and see things are starting to happen," said Ramey. "They'll see the opportunity for development, and when we get the water and sewer out there, it will make it all possible."

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