The state of Kentucky will use a county's injection molding training program statewide in a move to recruit more processors. Kentucky officials, along with the American Plastics Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., are responding to a 41 percent growth in the number of the state's plastics processors between 1991 and 1994.
The Kentucky Alliance of Plastics Industries met Dec. 10 in Frankfort, Ky., to announce its expansion from Jefferson County to all 121 counties statewide. APC and SPI picked up the tab for the lunch, which was scheduled to include remarks by Lt. Gov. Steve Henry.
The state made numerous announcements this year about plastics locations in Kentucky. Among those include:
Guardian Automotive, a branch of Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Guardian Industries, which said in October it will place 12-20 injection molding machines in Morehead, Ky., to serve the transplant automakers of the Southeast.
Custom molder Plastics Products Co. Inc. of Lindstrom, Minn., announced in late July its intent to build a 40,000 square foot plant in Greenville, Ky.
Hanson Group Ltd. said in May that, with business ``going through the roof,'' it would expand its Mayfield, Ky., plant, which makes polypropylene parts for writing utensils and markers. It also is looking to get into the automotive market. Hanson praised the state for its effort to train employees as part of the reason for the expansion.
To some, the growth in Kentucky's plastics processing, especially in automotive applications, is a ``spillover'' from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Companies have moved across the Ohio River to serve the Toyota car plant in Georgetown. State officials also claim lower taxes and electricity costs are attractive to plastics processors.
In all, the state's economic development department said 57 car and truck assembly plants are within 500 miles of Louisville.
General Motors Corp. has been making fiberglass-bodied Cor-vettes in Bowling Green, Ky., since 1981. Plastics processing also has had a strong presence in the Louisville area with General Electric Co.'s two Appliance Park plants and their attendant plastics molding operations.
Plastics now make up a substantial part of Kentucky's economy. Johnson Controls Inc. employs 4,126 in the state in 12 plants and is termed the state's fifth-largest employer by the state's Cabinet for Economic Development's Division of Research.
Jones Plastic & Engineering Corp., founded in 1961 in Jeffersontown, with branch companies including Frankfort Plastics in Frankfort, is the eighth-largest employer with nearly 1,500 employees.
Charles Flaherty, vice president for sales and engineering for Jones, noted his company, with 1995 sales of $150 million, molds parts for the appliance and business machine industry, with some automotive work.
The KAPI meeting is the latest indication of how plastics firms may continue to choose Kentucky as a site for processing plants.
The Louisville/Jefferson County program, the seed of the state's plastics recruiting effort, developed after the state made plastics processing one of six target Industry Networks Program projects, based on their review of federal Commerce Department data, said William Pattison, a communications manager for the Louisville/Jefferson County Office for Economic Development in Louisville.
In Jefferson County, eight members form the core of the plastics network program.
Wayne Sweazy — president of custom injection molder DJ Inc. of Louisville and KAPI chairman — calls the state a plastics processing mecca.
``The more manufacturers we attract, the more end users and the more suppliers we attract,'' he said.
The state's ``biggest advantage is the rural areas' need for employment,'' Sweazy said.
In the 1980s, when Gov. Paul Patton was lieutenant governor and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry was a Jefferson County commissioner, both were active in forming state loan programs now used to increase rural-area employment.
For example, Kentucky Rural Economic Development grants give state income tax credits up to 100 percent for debt service on land, buildings and site development to companies that invest $500,000 and hire 15 new first-time employees in high unemployment counties.
In addition, the Plastics Network project started at Louis-ville's Pleasure Ridge Park High School, which like all Jefferson County secondary schools is a ``magnet'' school attracting students from across the county. School officials and the network approached them shortly after the network's formation in June 1994 and the program went into effect in January 1995.
The Pleasure Ridge Park High program has earned three Bluegrass State Skills Corp. grants totaling nearly $70,000 since the end of December 1994, and has had a $275,000 Toshiba injection molding machine installed that was donated through the efforts of the eight core Plastics Network manufacturer members.
Connie Fowler, plastics team leader for the Louisville/Jefferson County economic development office, said half of the Pleasure Ridge Park High program's 40 graduating seniors joined local plastics processors as full-time employees and another 13 work in the plastics industry in cooperative education posts. Another 300 plastics processing employees from the area have used the facility for additional training.