Ground broken for factory in Crab Orchard

June 18, 2004|EMILY BURTON

CRAB ORCHARD - A start-up company hoping to bring 200 jobs to Crab Orchard broke ground Thursday at a star-studded ceremony, complete with hard hats and just a little mud-slinging.

Company CEO Joetta Young and local politicians slung a scoop of the wet earth off their gold shovels, after short speeches from representatives of the governor's office, state representatives and local politicians.

"It's a wonderful day for the community, and I want to thank them for their support. Let's get things rolling, I'm ready," said Young.

The factory, ERJ Manufacturing of Ky. Inc., will be built on U.S 150 at the edge of the city limits. It will be a metal-stamping and assembly plant, forming sheet metal into parts for the automotive and appliance industry with some assembly and welding. The temporary structure is scheduled to be finished by the first of August, with the permanent 200,000 square foot facility completed in February or March.


"I'm tickled to death. I'm still waiting for my feet to touch the ground," said exuberant Crab Orchard Mayor Mike Ramey.

Once known as the "Saratoga of the South," Crab Orchard languished after the demise of Crab Orchard Springs Hotel, said Ramey, "surviving but not thriving. This will open up a new chapter."

Crab Orchard was selected after Young pitched the idea around the state for months, looking for support, she said.

"I count my blessings every day, and I thank the Lord for this community, because without them I wouldn't be here either," said Young.

City will receive 1 percent of company's net profits

While the temporary shelter will help generate revenue to fund the larger structure, designed by Jerry Hernando Architecture of Lexington, state and federal grants are needed to help finance the plant. Some grants will be given to the city, which in turn will loan them to the factory. The city also will receive 1 percent of the company's net profits.

The 57-acre plat for ERJ will be divided into a section for additional commerce and a 20-acre city park in what Ramey called "the prettiest bottom land" around.

But the factory will be the crown of the development, employing in two years time about 200 workers in a quality environment, said Young.

"We want to build this company with pride. We're going to do quality work, we want people and the community to be proud to work here," said Young. "... People need jobs, and wouldn't it be nice for a change to work in an environment you're at least a little happy to go to?"

Young said she knows first-hand what it is like to work for a quality company. She has experience as a production supervisor at Hitachi Automotive Products USA, in management at Wise Manufacturing in Frankfort and Lincoln Manufacturing, Matsushita, and other positions in electronic engineering, industrial engineering and quality engineering.

Now as owner of ERJ, Young has entered the record books as only the third female CEO of such a company.

Young's efforts to bring jobs to the state applauded

Tierra Kavanaugh Turner, executive director of Minority and Women's Empowerment of the Commonwealth, was on hand to applaud Young's efforts to bring jobs to the state.

"Being a female CEO, and knowing she's only the third, is a first, and it will help put Crab Orchard on the map. ... Hats off to you and much success," said Turner.

"This is a first, and we hope its not the last," said Young.

Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mount Vernon, spoke to the crowd, showing enthusiasm for the project and pride in the community for taking on such an endeavor.

"Crab Orchard has always been an optimistic community. It's one that took challenges and didn't let people tell them it couldn't be done," said Ford. Now, thanks to the dreams of one person, look at what the city can accomplish, he said.

But the factory is not a success yet, said Young, and the community's support is needed.

"Please remember, I can't do this alone, and I am not bashful asking for help ... We are not ashamed, and we need your support to make this happen."

After the ceremony, Young spoke to television crews and circulated among guests, her wide smile unwavering. After the nerve-wracking groundbreaking, she looks forward to opening day. "The first week in August we'll be working. They'll come and pour the concrete and we'll be rocking and rolling."

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