BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 10, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear joined leaders from LION First Responder PPE Inc., a manufacturer of firefighter garments and other equipment and apparel for first responders, for the reopening of the company’s Lee County facility after more than a decade, an $850,000 investment bringing 75 quality jobs to Eastern Kentucky.
“The reopening of LION PPE is one more reason to believe in the future of Lee County and the future of Kentucky. And it’s one more reason to keep working together to create that future,” Gov. Beshear said. “The people of Beattyville made major contributions to LION’s success for many years, producing the outer shells that protect firefighters when they run into a burning building to save lives. It’s incredibly exciting to see this facility reopen to do this critical work, and to see 75 new jobs created right here in Beattyville.”
LION operated the 50,000-square-foot facility at 800 Fairground Ridge Road in Beattyville, where the company manufactured firefighter protective garment outer shells for 30 years until its closure in 2010. The revived operation now produces thermal liners, the innermost layer of firefighter protective garments. LION’s investment supported facility renovations and new sewing and seam sealing equipment. The company also is coordinating with the Lee County Area Technology Center to establish an apprenticeship program, as well as a work-based experience program with the Lee County School District for high school seniors.
In addition to the reopened Beattyville operation, LION maintains a manufacturing location in West Liberty and a distribution and manufacturing facility in Hazel Green. The company currently employs 456 people in Kentucky, including 49 in Beattyville.
“We are very excited to be back in Beattyville manufacturing the highest quality, hand-crafted technical garments that our firefighters deserve and expect,” said Steve Schwartz, LION CEO. “We are grateful for the support from the state and local community, as well as appreciate all of the hard work from our newest LION team members for all of the progress we have made in these five short months.”
Founded in 1898, LION is a family-owned company headquartered in Dayton, Ohio. The company manufactures a wide range of apparel and equipment for first responders, including fire service garments and public safety personal protective equipment (PPE). LION’s services include PPE cleaning, inspection and repair. The company also produces structures and equipment used in fire safety training. LIONcurrently employs over 900 people companywide, with additional manufacturing operations in Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Toronto.
Kentucky manufacturers are critical to the state’s continued economic success, as they operate nearly 5,000 facilities, employing more than 250,000 people across the state.
Senate President Robert Stivers highlighted the important role of PPE equipment produced by LION.
“I would like to welcome LION back to Beattyville as it continues the invaluable work of crafting personal protective equipment for our first responders,” Senate President Stivers said. “After the unprecedented events of the past two years, the importance of PPE for those on the front line is clearer than ever. I am also encouraged by the development of partnerships with Lee County’s educational institutions to provide students firsthand experience working in this field.”
Lee County Judge/Executive Chuck Caudill said the reopened facility will benefit the entire region.
“LION returning to Lee County is not just a benefit to Beattyville and Lee County, but to the entire region, as it creates an opportunity for scores of jobs,” Judge/Executive Caudill said. “On behalf of Lee County Fiscal Court, I’d like to thank Gov. Beshear, his staff, the Kentucky River Area Development District and EKCEP for working so diligently to help us make this a reality. We’d like to welcome LION back to Beattyville and Lee County. We look forward to great things in the future.”
Beattyville Mayor Scott Jackson said LION’s return to the community comes at just the right time.
“Lee County and the City of Beattyville are very pleased with the efforts that were put forth by the Cabinet for Economic Development and Gov. Beshear for bringing hope back to Beattyville and Lee County after the pandemic and the devastating flood in March,” Mayor Jackson said. “I am thrilled the former employees are going to be able to come back home for work, and the Lee County school system also will benefit by getting students interested in this trade.”
The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), which works with businesses across Eastern Kentucky to meet workforce needs, provides on-the-job training for new hires at LION. Jeff Whitehead, executive director of EKCEP, said the impact of the company’s return to Beattyville is already being realized.
“LION is a tremendous employer, and their expansion into Beattyville and Lee County is resulting in exciting opportunities for workers in the area,” Whitehead said. “At EKCEP we’re extremely happy to be working with the company to help meet their workforce needs and look forward to seeing the positive impact LION will have on the community as they help reinvigorate the economy here.”
LION’s reopened facility and job creation furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth, as the state builds back stronger in response to the effects of the pandemic.
This year, the commonwealth has shattered every economic development record in the books. Year-to-date, private-sector new-location and expansion announcements include a record $11 billion in total planned investment and commitments to create a record 17,000 full-time jobs across the coming years. Through September, Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide is $24.15 before benefits, a 10% increase over the previous year.
In September, Gov. Beshear, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chair Bill Ford, CEO Jim Farley and Dong-Seob Jee, president of SK Innovation’s battery business, announced the single largest economic development project in the history of the commonwealth, celebrating a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs and places Kentucky at the forefront of the automotive industry’s future.
In July, thanks to strong fiscal management by the Beshear administration, the state budget office reported the commonwealth ended the 2021 fiscal year with a general fund surplus of over $1.1 billion – the highest ever in the commonwealth – and a 10.9% increase in general fund receipts to $12.8 billion.
In May, Moody’s Analytics published a positive economic outlook for Kentucky, noting mass vaccination as the driving force behind a sustained recovery in consumer services. The state’s recovery, Moody’s said, benefited from earlier reopening efforts and increased demand for manufactured goods over services. The report also found Kentucky’s manufacturing industry outperformed the nation’s since the national downturn last year.
Fitch Ratings in May improved the state’s financial outlook to stable, reflecting the commonwealth’s solid economic recovery. The state’s April sales tax receipts set an all-time monthly record at $486.5 million, as did vehicle usage tax receipts at over $64 million.
In March, Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup rankings for 2020 positioned Kentucky atop the South Central region, and third nationally, for qualifying projects per capita. The commonwealth also placed seventh overall in total projects, the highest of any state with a population under 5 million. Site Selection also placed Kentucky in a tie for fifth in its 2021 Prosperity Cup rankings, positioning the state among the national leaders for business climate.
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in June preliminarily approved a performance-based incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, LION can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.
For more information on LION, visit LIONProtects.com.
A detailed community profile for Lee County can be viewed here.
Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at CED.ky.gov. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion at facebook.com/CEDkygov, on Twitter @CEDkygov, Instagram @CEDkygov and LinkedIn.