Kristina Slattery
Kristina Slattery
Business Development

Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

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Leading the Charge

Electric Vehicle Growth and Site Development Efforts Make Kentucky a Prime Location for Business in the U.S.

The future of economic development in Kentucky is electric, literally. With the rise of the electric vehicle (EV) industry and the rapid growth of companies directly supporting this rapidly expanding market, Kentucky has wasted no time positioning itself as a national leader within the sector. 

Kentucky’s recent success is no accident. The combination of a long history of automotive strength, large-scale projects from some of the industry’s leading companies and numerous announcements to build the foundation for the supply chain and logistical support of the sector has set the commonwealth up as a leading destination for EV investment for years to come.  

In the past two years, the commonwealth has announced the two largest economic development projects in state history, both setting the stage for tremendous growth within the automotive sector. 

In August 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear joined state and local officials and representatives from Japan-based AESC to break ground on a $2 billion, state-of-the-art gigafactory in Bowling Green’s Kentucky Transpark. The 30 gigawatt hour plant – with the potential for even more capacity in the future – is creating 2,000 skilled jobs in Southcentral Kentucky to produce battery cells and modules that will power up to 300,000 next-generation EVs for multiple global automotive manufacturers by 2027.  

The project came just months after Kentucky’s first game-changing EV battery announcement. In September 2021, Gov. Beshear and executives from Ford Motor Co. and SK On announced the BlueOval SK (BOSK) Battery Park in Hardin County. The $5.8 billion project is the single-largest economic development investment in state history and is set to create 5,000 jobs in the heart of the state. The project, which broke ground in October 2022, includes two massive battery manufacturing facilities capable of producing more than 80 gigawatt hours annually. The plants will produce advanced batteries for future Ford and Lincoln EVs.  

BOSK also announced a partnership with Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC) to build the ECTC BlueOval SK Training Center in Glendale, which will allow the 5,000 people employed by BOSK to prepare for their future careers. The primary curriculum for the training facility will support battery knowledge, roles and skills. BlueOval SK will train employees in SK On’s proprietary technical, quality and manufacturing processes in the ECTC BlueOval SK Training Center’s virtual reality labs, industrial maintenance lab, work simulation lab and ergonomics techniques classrooms. 

“That highlights what truly makes these projects transformational for Kentuckians,” Gov. Beshear said. “Not only are these companies coming in and making significant investments in our state, they’re also creating thousands of quality job opportunities for our residents and showing a commitment to provide the workforce with the skills needed for long-term success. We have worked hard to build the amazing partnerships we have over the past few years, and we will continue to see the benefits of those efforts for generations to come.” 

While these battery plant announcements have helped secure Kentucky’s electric future, several other projects are helping to secure the commonwealth’s place as a national leader. 

The state’s work with Ascend Elements Inc., which has committed to bring hundreds of full-time jobs and a nearly $1 billion investment to the state, signifies Kentucky’s dedicated effort to remain at the forefront of the EV movement.  

In August 2022, the manufacturer of advanced, sustainable battery materials made from recycled lithium-ion batteries announced plans to build the company’s largest U.S. operation – and the only facility of its kind in the country – in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The initial $310 million announcement was already set to make a major impact in the community and surrounding region and the scope of the project has grown significantly in the months since.  

Thanks to more than $480 million in federal grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to support increased production of EV batteries and associated materials in the United States, the project has grown to a nearly $1 billion investment that will create more than 400 full-time jobs. With the increased investment, the Ascend Elements project known as Apex 1 is now the single largest investment on record in Western Kentucky.  

The location will house the company’s innovative hydro-to-cathode process, a closed-loop direct precursor synthesis manufacturing system that generates no toxic waste and minimal carbon emissions. The operation will produce enough recycled battery precursor and sustainable cathode active materials to equip up to 250,000 EVs annually. Ascend Elements’ Kentucky operation will serve a range of EV-related customers and build on current partnerships, including with American Honda Motor Co., EcoPro Group and SK Battery America.  

Kentucky is second to none in serving the automotive and EV market, providing companies with the resources, speed-to-market capabilities, location and workforce they need to make projects like Ascend Elements possible. 

Investing in Future Growth 

Kentucky’s efforts to be a prime location for businesses don’t stop there. State leaders are taking steps to ensure that it has the resources and sites available to roll that success forward well into the future.  

The Kentucky Product Development Initiative (KPDI) is a statewide effort to support upgrades at industrial sites throughout the commonwealth and position Kentucky for continued economic growth. A collaboration between the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Association for Economic Development (KAED), the program includes $100 million in state funding toward upgrades of sites and buildings across the state. Since it was established one year ago, 35 site and building development projects statewide have been approved for over $20 million in state funding. 

Sites are evaluated based on all facets a prospective company would consider, from workforce availability, access to infrastructure and detailed information on costs associated with development. KPDI greatly increases the efforts of the pilot Product Development Initiative program, which provided nearly $7 million in state funding for 20 site and building development projects statewide. 

Kentucky communities have also been actively moving sites through the Build-Ready certification process. With a build-ready site, much of the work, aside from construction, has already been completed. That includes controlling the land to be developed, completing archaeological, environmental and geotechnical studies, constructing a building pad, finishing preliminary design work, obtaining approved site plan permits and putting necessary infrastructure in place. On a build-ready site, construction can begin immediately. 

Kentucky has many advantages, including its commitment to site development and a proactive, aggressive approach to attract dynamic companies that support a wide range of EV and battery functions. The result is Kentucky setting the standard as a premier destination for existing and future industries. 


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