The industrial development announcement of BlueOvalSK developing not one but two manufacturing plants on the Glendale megasite property is a game changer — in many ways.
Based on Bill Ford’s remarks at the announcement ceremony in Frankfort, it’s a manufacturing game-changer on par with his great-grandfather’s development of the assembly line. A lifelong environmentalist, Ford has demonstrated his concern for a sustainable operation since become executive chairman of Ford Motor Company two decades ago. His vision for the Glendale project and a related operation in west Tennessee is a zero emissions, self-sufficient infrastructure built on American ingenuity and, as they like to say, being Ford tough.
The $5.8 billion investment by Ford and SK Innovations is the largest single industrial development commitment in Kentucky’s history. Despite living in the era of COVID, Kentucky already was on a record pace for development and blew the doors off all past figures with this decision. Gov. Andy Beshear says it means the Commonwealth never again will be viewed as a “flyover state,” meaning a spot the East and West Coast elitists tend to overlook and ignore. Kentucky’s geographic blessing with a day’s drive to a majority of the nation’s population is a blessing but it’s massive highway, rail and air transportation network is a difference maker.
Obviously, this will be a game-changer for Hardin County and the region. Expect the 5,000 jobs to be spread over a much larger footprint than Hardin County. It’s important to view our community as others do — not as a single county but as the hub of a metropolitan region and the shopping and trade destination for a 10-county region. The temporary construction jobs related to roads, infrastructure and the plants themselves will boost the local economy even before 2025 when battery production begins and 5,000 people start commuting to Exit 86.
This announcement also potentially changes the face of travel. Ford expects the demand for electric vehicles to be half of the overall new vehicle sales by 2030. The company truly expects to be a leader here and globally and is casting its lot with Hardin County. It’s dependent on the diligent Kentucky workforce to get the job done.
Thinking back to how this all got done, there are plenty of people to acknowledge and praise.
Current leaders including Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes, Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory, Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry and the entire state legislature were singled out for praise at Tuesday’s celebration on the steps of the State Capitol.
Certainly, few people have invested more time, more effort and more prayers in this venture than Rick Games, chief operating officer of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation. And the leaders in the foundation’s board plus local workforce development officials and the staff of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College deserve accolades of their own.
In fact, it would be impossible to properly thank everyone who had a role in this decision because the path of progress extends back for generations here.
While other parts of Kentucky have a tendency to safeguard the status quo, Hardin County consistently and historically has maintained a focus on the future.
Consider the forethought in 1956 that led to the industrial foundation’s establishment and people who dedicated decades of service to it including T.J. Patterson, Lamonte Hornback and Joe Prather.
Beginning in 1960, tireless efforts by local attorney James Collier and founding members of the North Central Education Foundation including Bill Swope, John Behen, Bill Burks and Walter “Dee” Huddleston led to the establishment of what is now Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and were key players in the establishment of the statewide community college system. The legendary leadership of Dr. Jim Owen and groundbreaking work of Chuck Stebbins and Thelma White set a benchmark for excellence that Juston Pate continues today.
The modern general aviation airport at Addington Field owes a great debt of thanks to Bill Schmidt and others who took time away from successful businesses to establish a facility that continues to serve.
The long-forgotten legislators and transportation officials who established the Kentucky Turnpike from Louisville to Elizabethtown, which ultimately an initial leg of Interstate 65, played a role in Glendale’s new success as well as thousands of contributors that built a first-class medical community, created reliable water quality, sanitation and landfill systems, established vital quality of life offerings and invested daily in their hometowns and their fellow man have built a history of success.
They may not hold a place in the history books that Henry Ford earned, but they made this place ready for Ford’s historic selection.
The Glendale announcement reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of giants. And the current generation always is responsible for the making the future brighter.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.