FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) -- On Friday April 28, Governor Matt Bevin announced Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products LLC (KAAP) will expand for a seventh time in Bowling Green, investing more than $51 million and creating 129 full-time jobs.
“This expansion by Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products is a shining example of growth among advanced manufacturers in Kentucky,” Gov. Bevin said. “Since establishing its Bowling Green plant in 2004, KAAP has proven itself an excellent corporate partner in the Commonwealth’s automotive industry. We are grateful for the company’s dedication to the state and are excited to see this remarkable success continue.”
KAAP will add more than 108,000 square feet to accommodate new production lines and equipment, including a melting furnace, forging presses and heat-treatment, casting and machining lines. The additional capacity will allow the company to meet increased sales goals. Company leaders expect the project to take approximately one year, with the start of production targeted for fall 2018.
“This is our 12th year producing aluminum automobile suspension parts in Kentucky. Two years ago we decided to make our sixth investment, and due to the increasing necessity of lighter vehicles, we have decided to make another investment,” said Toshihiro Katsura, KAAP president and CEO. “This will be our seventh additional investment, and we are truly grateful to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for all of the support and incentives we have received.”
The plant’s previous expansions total $293 million and it currently employs 500 Kentucky residents full-time. KAAP manufactures lightweight aluminum parts, including upper and lower control arms and steering knuckles. Lighter parts help reduce overall vehicle weight, which contributes to greater fuel economy and lower emission levels.
KAAP, based in Kobe, Japan, has served is home country’s aircraft and automotive industries since 1937, primarily manufacturing forged aluminum suspension products. The company is part of the Kobe Steel Group, known internationally as KOBELCO.
Kentucky’s automotive industry includes more than 500 facilities employing 100,000-plus residents full-time. The state ranks first nationally in light-vehicle production per-capita and is one of the top automotive production states overall.
The KAAP announcement brings the state’s 2017 automotive-sector total investment to more than $1.43 billion with nearly 280 new full-time jobs.
Sen. Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green, said the company has had an ongoing impact on the community.
“The expansion of Kobe Aluminum here in Bowling Green marks a great day for both our city and our Commonwealth,” Sen. Wilson said. “KAAP has successfully expanded in previous years, and this newest expansion will create more than a hundred new Kentucky jobs. I thank KAAP for its dedication to Kentucky’s workforce and look forward to the company’s continuous growth in our region.”
Rep. Jim DeCesare, of Bowling Green, noted KAAP’s importance to the local economic and workforce.
“Kobe Aluminum continues to invest in our region to the tune of nearly $52 million and 129 new jobs,” Rep. DeCesare said. “Since 2005, they have expanded six times for a total of $293 million pumped into our region. I commend them for this recent investment, and am proud to continue to support pro-business initiatives to encourage this exact type of growth.”
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon welcomed the expansion and its economic impact.
“We are proud that KAAP continues to call Warren County home,” Judge-Executive Buchanon said. “Seven expansions in 12 years is a great testament to their success as a leader in an industry primed for growth. I extend our sincerest gratitude to KAAP for being such an important part of our local economy.”
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said the new jobs and investment build on the company’s long partnership with the city.
“KAAP continues to have a tremendous impact on the city and our local economy,” said Mayor Wilkerson. “Their growth and success since locating to Bowling Green in 2005 is astonishing and we are grateful for all KAAP does for our community.”
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in April preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $2 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
Additionally, KEDFA approved KAAP for up to $200,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
In addition, KAAP can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. In fiscal year 2016, the Kentucky Skills Network provided training for nearly 95,000 Kentuckians and 5,000 companies from a variety of industry sectors.