By GINA CLEAR THE NEWS-ENTERPRISE Sep 29, 2021 Updated Sep 30, 2021
After 20 years of marketing the Glendale megasite, Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation President and COO Rick Games is breathing a sigh of relief.
Following the initial news late Monday afternoon that Ford is bringing the single-largest manufacturing investment in Kentucky history to the site, Games finally is seeing all the hard work of prepping and marketing the site pay off.
“Our time has come,” he said. “I think what’s exciting about this is the quality of the company that’s taking the site and also the technology and advanced manufacturing that’s going to be taking place in this new era of battery electric vehicles.”
The industrial foundation and partners in the utility, government and corporate sectors have worked for about two decades acquiring the 1,500-acre property, connecting utilities to include bringing sewer to Glendale, and other projects to attract a high-caliber company such as Ford, Games said.
“It’s been a team effort,” he said. “All the boxes you have to check to be considered for a project like this, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years.”
The industrial megasite will be home to twin manufacturing plants to produce batteries for next-generation electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles.
“This is truly transformative in a way that I don’t think anybody realizes at this time,” said 25th District State Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, who represents the Glendale area. “It’s going to inject money for schools, roads, infrastructure, jobs for folks who are looking for jobs, jobs for folks who are looking for better jobs. It’s going to be a windfall of improvements for our community.”
The $5.8 billion investment comes with the promise of 5,000 new jobs for Hardin County. An official announcement with state and Ford officials came Tuesday afternoon in a televised news conference watched by county officials at the Hardin County Government Building.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Hardin County Deputy Judge-Executive Daniel London said to other officials in attendance. “Everybody buckle up.”
News of a large unnamed company coming to the site began earlier this month with the passage of an economic development package during a special session of the General Assembly.
The bipartisan effort secured spending $410 million of Kentucky’s $1.9 billion “rainy day” budget reserve trust fund to help lure Ford and SK Innovations to the site.
“My side of this has simply been on the legislative side trying to make sure the packages that were needed for the attraction of Ford, that those got approved and passed,” DuPlessis said.
“A lot of people deserve credit for this,” he added. “Twenty years ago people had the foresight to try to bring this megasite to Hardin County. … The efforts and foresight, that saw us being a credible location for a nationwide, huge opportunity, somebody saw that and worked it.”
Another part of the incentive package passed by the state legislature will inject $50 million into worker training programs to provide the necessary employees.
The programs will be run by Bluegrass Skills Corp. and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which ECTC is the local campus. About $25 million of that money would be spent to build a training center for the community college system at the megasite.
“I think it’s good for the entire region, which, of course, means it’s good for the college,” ECTC President and CEO Dr. Juston Pate said, calling the Ford announcement a big win. “It means we have a lot of work to do. We all have a role to play in supporting this location and, of course, the college will have a big role to play in supporting that work force. It’s extremely exciting for the college, the community and the commonwealth.”
Pate said because details of what is needed from the college remain to be determined, no timeline for instituting programs have been established.
“We will certainly be looking into new training programs,” he said. We’ll be looking into community colleges across the nation which has curricula in place to support that industry.”
Being part of the community college system will allow for rapid installment of curricula, Pate said.
“We’ll be working very closely with the company to determine what are the specific needs, what curriculum examples are out there that will work well to support their industry; then, we’ll start working to add those to the colleges catalog of programs,” he said. “Then there will be a lot of those non-credit, non-degree types of training we will add to have the workforce prepared to do the jobs that are needed to be done.”
DuPlessis said another part of the attraction to the site was the education systems surrounding it.
“Here’s the big part, we have the education resources,” DuPlessis said. “With strong schools, both of our school systems are top 20 in the state, and ECTC right here in the county, it was just right for what we have.”
Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright said the district has been preparing for the potential of a large company at the site by working their district facilities plan, that included a newly built East Hardin Middle School set to open soon.
“We had to proceed like something was coming, we just didn’t know when,” he said. “Obviously, with the location of the new East Hardin, that will be a draw and the renovations that we are doing at Central Hardin (High School), that will certainly help. … We’re just ready.”
Some programming the district already has in place, especially at the county’s Early College and Career Center, will help prepare students for jobs after graduation.
“Obviously, our engineering pathway is extremely strong and has been recognized on the world stage,” he said. “Those students will be very prepared to graduate and immediately enter the workforce at Ford, because of the first-hand knowledge and experiences they received in our district.”
Wright said the district needs to have conversations with local leaders and then, eventually Ford, to help determine curriculum and support programs to help prepare graduates to successfully enter the workforce.
“We’re super excited for our community, because we know that our students, when they graduate, will have even more options now,” he said. “There’s so many options for our students when they graduate and now there will be so many more. We’re just so thankful to live, work, play and learn in Hardin County, Kentucky.”
With a timeline to open the first plant in 2025, Games said he believe work will begin quickly on the site.
“We’re excited to get this announcement portion behind us so we can put the gloves on and really get to work,” he said.