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Gary Gerstenslager said Elizabethtown is not the first Kentucky destination Hendrickson USA considered to build a manufacturing facility, but it perfectly suits the needs of the company, which develops suspension systems and other parts for heavy duty trucks.
Gerstenslager, the company’s president and CEO, said Elizabethtown has an impressive industrial park, a desirable environment and the type of skilled workforce Hendrickson craves to maintain its market share.
“It was you earning it that brought us here,” he said Wednesday afternoon during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, part of the company’s trailer division that manufactures products such as axles, brakes and suspension systems.
Hendrickson officials joined state and local leaders Wednesday to break ground on the plant, which is expected to be open within a year on roughly 30 acres of property along North Black Branch Road near UPS Supply Chain Solutions. The company said it will create 75 new jobs and invest $20 million in Hardin County.
Hendrickson is familiar with Kentucky: it has opened facilities in Lebanon and Somerset that employ roughly 450. He said the company has found success at both locations and harvested talent from Kentucky by promoting them to higher positions in the company.
Gerstenslager said the facility will use “first of its kind”automation, employing robotics in manufacturing. That is why the facility is not creating more jobs, he said.
But the jobs created require certain skills, and Gerstenslager said Elizabethtown has the type of workforce the company requires to advance its brand. He called Hendrickson a “hard grader” during site selection.
He also told the crowd Hendrickson manufactures in North America rather than importing materials from overseas, drawing applause.
Expected salaried positions include manufacturing engineers, quality and control technicians, production supervisors and human resources administration, according to company officials. Hourly positions include welders, material handlers and machine operators.
Gerstenslager said salary ranges have yet to be determined, but pay will be in line with the local market.
“They will be competitive,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson welcomed Hendrickson to Elizabethtown on behalf of Gov. Steve Beshear, who was unable to attend. Abramson said Elizabethtown is on his calendar often because of an explosion of growth in the area and the work ethic of local officials to attract industry.
“Whatever you’re doing here, keep doing it,” Abramson said.
Abramson said Hendrickson officials should feel safe in the knowledge that Hardin County is dedicated to economic development and committed to advancing educational opportunities and ensuring the company has a skilled workforce for 10-20 years.
Elizabethtown has landed a company that has proven its loyalty to the state, he said.
Abramson presented Gerstenslager with the Kentucky flag and Elizabethtown Mayor Edna Berger presented the city’s flag as gifts.
The sun was beating down on the construction site, and Berger said that same sun was shining directly on Elizabethtown’s good fortunes in landing Hendrickson. She thanked those who fought to make it possible.
“It takes a whole lot of people working hard to bring an industry to a city,” Berger said.
Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry likened the acquisition to a marriage between the community and a strong company.
“We look forward to many prosperous years together,” he said.
Greg Jenkins, chairman of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation, said Hendrickson made the right choice by choosing Hardin County’s superior transportation infrastructure and the most dedicated, hard-working people they will find.
Former Transportation Secretary Joe Prather said Elizabethtown prides itself on being a diverse city with a broad range of thinkers who produce commendable results when melding ideas.
He said Hendrickson will enjoy its stay in Hardin County.
“You seem like our kind of folks,” Prather said.
Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.