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Kentucky Power Leads Effort to Build Eastern Kentucky as an Aerospace Industry Corridor

by on August 2, 2017
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, center, is joined by Kentucky Power’s Matt Satterwhite and Brad Hall, right, as well as representatives from Braidy Industries, One East Kentucky, Ashland Alliance and  secretary for the state Cabinet for Economic Development at the Paris Air Show. Photo submitted by Brad Hall.

(Story by Allison Barker)

ASHLAND, Ky. – Soon after Matt Satterwhite was named Kentucky Power president and COO last year, he immediately asked what is next for economic development in eastern Kentucky. His staff quickly responded aerospace manufacturing.

In fact, Kentucky ranks as the No. 2 state for aerospace manufacturing exports behind only Washington, home to aerospace giant Boeing.

Kentucky Power has been working on setting the stage for growth in the aerospace industry for years. Kentucky Power External Affairs Manager Brad Hall worked in collaboration with local, regional and state leaders to capture part of the growing aerospace business.

Kentucky Power worked with its local partners to commission a leading aerospace consultant to determine the viability of aerospace in Appalachia’s coal and steel country. The consultant certified 17 counties as AeroReady in the Tri-State region of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, furthering the claim that aerospace can thrive in the area.

Satterwhite suggested the partners take the good story about eastern Kentucky to the Paris Air Show. This annual event is the center of the aerospace business. It is the largest airshow of the year where manufacturing deals are made with aviation and aerospace industrial leaders from around the globe. If you want to get on the map for investment by aerospace companies, you do it at the Paris Air Show.

Satterwhite and Hall put together a team that included Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill, Braidy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Craig Bouchard, as well as regional economic development partners One East Kentucky and Ashland Alliance. The Kentucky group conducted 23 recruitment meetings over four days, including 14 with CEOs of major aerospace and defense companies, such as Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin.

“Before this year, many companies were not interested in Kentucky,” Satterwhite said. “They had no clue Kentucky was No. 2 in aerospace exports. In fact, they told us that we were not even on their radar before, but now we are at the top. We successfully changed their view of Kentucky, and especially eastern Kentucky.”

Satterwhite said a collaborative approach set the Kentucky team apart from other states at the air show.

“We already had working partnerships with government, business and regional leaders and could show success,” Satterwhite said. “Our cooperation showed that Kentucky is open for and friendly toward business. We are currently following up on leads from the show and I am confident this work will lead to development in eastern Kentucky.”

Satterwhite said the air show and partnership with the state and other partners helps Kentucky Power advance its plans to revitalize and diversify industry in eastern Kentucky through economic development. Dubbed Appalachian Sky, the initiative’s purpose is to aggressively attract aerospace and aviation industry to the central Appalachia region. Appalachian Sky was inspired by the intelligence and work ethic of the coal mining communities as captured in the movie “October Sky.”

The work that led to creation of Appalachian Sky was sparked by the completion of a comprehensive regional workforce analysis in American Electric Power’s Kentucky service territory. The research showed that coal miners and steelworkers, many of whom have lost their jobs when their operations closed in recent years, have the metal working skills that many aerospace companies need. The study, led by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), was funded with economic development grants from Kentucky Power and other economic development partners in the region. The study concluded that there were eight times the national average of skilled metal workers in the region.

“Eastern Kentucky is primed for economic growth and Kentucky Power is committed to leading this charge forward with economic development,” Satterwhite said. “Economic development is at the core of our vision at Kentucky Power for a strong eastern Kentucky. The biggest driver in our increasing rates is the loss of customers and industry and that comes from a loss of jobs and places to go to work.

“Those of us left behind are left to pay the fixed costs of running an electric system designed to serve everyone. That is why Kentucky Power is so focused on flipping the script to change the equation and focus on increasing jobs and industry to spread the costs across more customers. The air show is proof that government and business can work together. I can honestly say that we should be optimistic and continue working together to make this a reality. In fact, I dare say the future is bright and the sky is the limit.”

From → News From AEP

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