Gov. Beshear Announces 5 Planned Economic Development Projects in 5 Days That Could Bring Thousands of Jobs, Billions in Investments to Kentucky

Projects possible with up to $961 million in federal funding, companies betting on Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 25, 2024) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear said that, thanks to as much as $961 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding and companies betting on Kentucky, he is able to announce five planned economic development projects over five days that could bring thousands of new jobs and billions in investment to the commonwealth. 

The Governor will be joined by company leaders and local officials Monday at the state Capitol to discuss the five proposed job-creating projects approved for federal funds, which include:

  • Century Aluminum Co. plans to potentially build the first new U.S. primary aluminum smelter in 45 years in Northeastern Kentucky. The green aluminum smelter could be the largest investment on record in Eastern Kentucky and may bring 5,500 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs.
  • Wieland North America Recycling intends to expand its U.S. recycling capacity and capabilities through significant investments into advanced, state-of-the-art copper scrap metal processing technology in Shelbyville. The project could be the largest investment in Shelby County’s history and is expected to create as many as 200 permanent jobs.
  • Diageo Americas Supply Inc., would fund a project aiming to install heat batteries for deep decarbonization of the Bulleit facility in Shelbyville, which could bring construction jobs and community benefits to Kentucky.
  • ISP Chemicals LLC, an Ashland Co., is engaging in conversations to build a chemical production electrification and heat storage project at their Calvert City chemical plant. The total project investment is approximately $70 million.
  • Rye Development, plans to build a first-of-its-kind $1.3 billion coal-to-pumped storage hydropower facility in Bell County that will create about 1,500 high-quality construction jobs and 30 operations jobs.

“We are building that better Kentucky we have all dreamed of – thousands of good jobs and billions of dollars in economic investments are planned – and we are announcing what could be the two largest projects ever in Eastern Kentucky, and possibly the largest project in Shelby County,” Gov. Beshear said. “We have so many people to thank for believing in Kentucky and our great workforce, including President Biden, Secretary Granholm, the teams at Century Aluminum, Wieland, Diageo, ISP Chemicals and Rye Development and all the supportive community partners.”

“Spurring on the next generation of decarbonization technologies in key industries like steel, paper, concrete and glass will keep America the most competitive nation on Earth,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to President Biden’s industrial strategy, DOE is making the largest investment in industrial decarbonization in the history of the United States. These investments will slash emissions from these difficult-to-decarbonize sectors and ensure American businesses and American workers remain at the forefront of the global economy.” 

Green Aluminum Smelter Preferred Location is Northeast Kentucky
Century Aluminum Company has identified Northeastern Kentucky as the preferred location for a green aluminum smelter. The first new U.S. primary aluminum smelter in 45 years could be the largest investment on record in Eastern Kentucky and is supported by up to $500 million from the DOE Industrial Demonstrations Program, which is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Upon completion, the smelter would double the size of the current U.S. primary aluminum industry while avoiding an estimated 75% of emissions from a traditional smelter due to its state-of-the-art, energy efficient design and use of carbon-free energy. The high-purity aluminum produced from this facility will be suitable for national defense, electric vehicles, semiconductors, building and construction and green energy applications.

This project would create approximately 1,000 permanent jobs with advanced wages, represented by the United Steelworkers, and 5,500 construction jobs. Century Aluminum aims to work with job training organizations for workers who have been displaced through the energy transition.

“A very important piece of the puzzle for this complex project has been set thanks to the work of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his team. Northeast Kentucky is the preferred site location, and while a myriad of steps still needs to be resolved, from costs for development of the sites under consideration, utilities – including all facets of serving the site to cost and rate structure – workforce and incentives among others, we very much appreciate the tireless efforts and great leadership of so many from the commonwealth for achieving this critical milestone,” said Century Aluminum President and CEO Jesse Gary. “Northeast Kentucky has been at the top of our list for potential sites, and while we are continuing to evaluate multiple locations, this announcement is another step in our continued long-standing relationship with the state, and we look forward to the opportunity to help be a part of growing commerce in Eastern Kentucky, an outcome that is very attractive to Century Aluminum.”

Advanced Copper Recycling Jobs in Shelbyville
The advanced copper recycling facility project, led by Wieland, plans to expand its U.S. recycling capacity and capabilities through major investments in advanced, state-of-the-art copper scrap metal processing technology in Shelbyville. The project is supported by up to $270 million in DOE Industrial Demonstrations Program funding. Upon completion, the project would enable the recycling of a diverse mix of copper scrap and other metals, turning it into high-purity copper suitable for supporting multiple applications, including EVs and semiconductors.

The project expects to create as many as 200 permanent jobs through the phases of its development, supporting local economic growth. Wieland prioritizes filling these positions locally and is creating an internship program for underrepresented STEM students, which will provide a pathway to advanced manufacturing jobs by engaging Kentucky State University, Simmons College of Kentucky and other interested educational institutions. Additionally, Wieland plans to create a Community Advisory Board consisting of Wieland executives and leaders from community partner organizations.

“Wieland is excited to begin award negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Matt Bedingfield, president business unit recycling, Wieland North America. “Our ambitious sustainability goals align with those of the Department of Energy with regards to industrial decarbonization, as well as long-term investment in the local community and American workforce.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in May 2021 preliminarily approved a 15-year incentive agreement with Wieland North America under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $6 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of up to $250 million and creation of 225 jobs at the Shelbyville location. KEDFA also approved the company for up to $750,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, which allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

The Cabinet for Economic Development has continued discussions with Wieland leadership on further incentive opportunities to support the company’s proposed increased investment and job creation in Shelby County. Any incentive agreement related to the increased project scope would be presented for approval by the KEDFA board during a future meeting.  

Heat Batteries for Deep Decarbonization of the Beverage Industry Jobs in Shelbyville
In the heat batteries for deep decarbonization of the beverage industry, Diageo plans to partner with Rondo Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to install heat batteries powered by renewable energy to provide low cost, zero carbon heat and power for industrial heating processes at facilities in Shelbyville as well as Plainfield, Illinois. The two projects will be supported with up to $75 million through the DOE Industrial Demonstrations Program.

“Today’s announcement from the Department of Energy marks a milestone for our North American operations and gives us the opportunity to incorporate innovative technologies into our production footprint to make our business more efficient, resilient and sustainable,” said President of North America Supply, Diageo North America, Marsha McIntosh-Hamilton. “Through our partnership with Rondo Energy we’ll build a model that can be replicated across our supply operations in the U.S.”

Chemical Production Electrification and Heat Storage Jobs in Calvert City
The Chemical Production Electrification and Heat Storage project, led by ISP Chemicals (Ashland), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Electrified Thermal Solutions (ETS), is engaging with the DOE to evaluate a project to replace natural gas boilers with electric heat delivered with a thermal battery, reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with steam generation by nearly 70% at Ashland’s Calvert City chemical plant. The project is supported with up to $35.2 million from the DOE Industrial Demonstrations Program funding. This project intends to demonstrate electrification with thermal heat storage as a scalable, highly replicable, readily deployable and customizable decarbonization solution for moderate heat processes across multiple hard-to-decarbonize sectors and could help remove the barrier to electrification of high-temperature thermal processes, including supporting affordable off-peak electricity rates for a 24/7 operation.

Ashland workers are unionized under the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which would have a significant role in workforce development. Ashland has met with IAM leadership at the local and national level to discuss workforce development needs, and their partnership expects to support thermal battery skills development with a training program. Ashland and project partner University of Kentucky both serve on the Calvert City Community Advisory Team (CCCAT), with Ashland participating for more than 30 years. The CCCAT consists of approximately 30 community members including local leaders, residents, clergy, educators, students, members of the media and representatives from industry.

Coal-to-Pumped Storage Hydropower Jobs in Bell County
Last Thursday, Gov. Beshear joined DOE officials to announce that the Lewis Ridge pumped storage project has been approved for an up-to-$81 million federal grant to help construct a first-of-its-kind $1.3 billion coal-to-pumped storage hydropower facility in Bell County. The project will create roughly 1,500 high-quality construction jobs, 30 operations jobs and enough energy to power nearly 67,000 homes each year. The Governor said he believes this is the largest project announced in Eastern Kentucky to date. The DOE Clean Energy Demonstration Program and Former Mine Land grant, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was approved for Rye Development to transition the former coal mine site, located adjacent to the Cumberland River, to a pumped-storage hydroelectric facility.

Rye Development has been engaging with stakeholders since spring 2022, leading to 17 local letters of support and a partnership with Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), one of Kentucky’s six regional innovation hubs, which represents the 54 Appalachian Regional Commission counties. Rye and SOAR plan to prioritize local hiring through partnerships with several unions and Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College and by providing a Registered Apprenticeship Program and other workforce training activities.

The DOE states that all project components and funding amounts are subject to change during award negotiations and as the projects proceed.

Since the beginning of his administration and prior to today’s announcements, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 1,000 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling over $30.3 billion in announced investments, creating more than 52,000 jobs. This is the highest investment figure secured during the tenure of any governor in the commonwealth’s history.

Kentucky’s energy sector – which includes electric power generation, natural gas distribution, oil and gas extraction, coal mining, petroleum refining and pipeline transportation – currently employs more than 150,100 energy workers.

Click here for more information about DOE’s Industrial Demonstrations Program and the selected projects.