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MAY 2006


I-75 Automotive Growth a Natural Progression

   The main north-south corridor for upper Midwest travelers continues to see automotive growth along its entire Kentucky length, but especially in and around the Lexington metro.
   In Georgetown, the latest Toyota project is its North American Production Support Center (NAPSC), a $12- million training facility that opened in February 2006 to serve the needs of all North American plants. The 98,000- sq.-ft. (9,104- sq.-m.) facility will employ 29 Toyota team members.
   In Lexington, ceramics company Ceradyne opened its Lexington Lightweight Ceramic Armor and Silicon Nitride Automotive and Industrial Manufacturing facility in August 2005. The company employs 250, and has invested $20 million in central Kentucky since first opening there in 2003.
   In Winchester, Sekisui S-LEC America, LLC, will invest $43 million and hire 80 to run a film manufacturing facility for automotive glass. The concentration of Sekisui's major customers along I-75 and the available industrial park complete with infrastructure played a key role in the company's decision. With the announcement, Japanese- owned investment accounts for 142 of the state's 350 international companies, and will employ more than half of the 70,000 Kentuckians employed by foreign firms.
   Gene Strong, secretary of economic development for the Commonwealth, says executive networking is one way his experienced team is capitalizing on the experiences of company leaders.
   "Over the last 13 years," he says of his tenure, "whether in Asia or Europe, we've been able to establish a lot of relationships with a lot of CEOs, who are frankly being very helpful to us now in terms of introducing us to new companies."
   Among them is Victoriano Munoz, president of Acerinox SA, parent company of North American Stainless, which not only continues to grow its presence in Ghent, near Dow Corning's site in Carrollton, but has been instrumental in bringing a major stainless steel conference to Louisville this year.
   Similarly, Nicholasville-based global animal health firm Alltech is not only adding 40 R&D jobs at its new Center for Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition over the next five years, but also brought a major feed industry conference to nearby Lexington in April 2006. Such are the intangible benefits that aren't always captured in projected economic impact statements.
   Strong also mentions Chuck Nobumoto, president and CEO of Akebono Corp., which just moved its headquarters to Elizabethtown from Michigan, nearly 20 years after siting manufacturing in Kentucky in the first wave of projects following Toyota.

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