Manufacturers, distributors, R&D facilities and corporate headquarters call South Central Kentucky home because of the assets, amenities and benefits available here. A variety of sectors have been identified as targets for the region, based on outside research by Applied Economics, The Austin Company and Chabin Concepts, along with insight from the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce staff. This sector research represents those businesses that already exist in the region and those that are potential attraction opportunities.
With existing businesses like Bowling Green Metalforming (MAGNA), Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products and Logan Aluminum, South Central Kentucky is an ideal region for advanced manufacturers because of a skilled workforce and access to training and education providers.
Bowling Green Metalforming, part of Magna International, Inc., has undergone five expansions since the 900,000-square-foot plant opened production in the Kentucky Transpark in mid-2005. A vehicle frame manufacturer, the plant currently has 900 full- and part-time employees and customers including BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Logan Aluminum’s only facility has been located in Russellville, Ky., since 1985. A joint venture between India- and Japan-based companies, that facility produces 45 percent of all aluminum sheets used in the production of aluminum beverage cans in North America.
Automotive Parts & Suppliers
Home to the only manufacturer of America’s sports car—the Chevrolet Corvette—Bowling Green, Warren County and the surrounding counties are a popular location for the automotive parts and suppliers sector. Average wage rates are far lower than northern automotive locations and compare favorably with other southern U.S. locations. The number of recent expansion and attraction projects in the region attest to the local quality of business for this sector. Some of the region’s projects (2010-2012) include
General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant
Holley Performance Products
NHK of America Suspension Components (NASCO)
Sequa Automotive Group
The General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant has been home to the iconic Chevy Corvette since 1981 and currently employs approximately 590 full- and part-time employees. In 2011, GM officials began a major refurbishment to the one million square-foot plant to add a new vehicle product program-the next-generation Chevy Corvette—creating 250 new jobs and a capital investment of more than $131 million. This announcement is the third largest announced investment in Kentucky by companies within the manufacturing and supportive/service firm industries in 2011. Ground Effects, Kentucky Chrome Works, Magna Car Top Systems and Trace Die Cast, among many others, are local suppliers to the GM plant.
Distribution and Logistics
South Central Kentucky is within a day’s drive of 60% of the U.S. population and is located centrally on Interstate 65 with immediate access to the major northern and southern manufacturing facilities and within two and a half hours of international airports and distribution hubs, making it an ideal location for distribution and logistics businesses. Existing businesses in this market include Dollar General Corp., the Fruit of the Loom Distribution Center, Shop NBC, Sun Products Corporation and the Tractor Supply Co. Distribution Center.
In 2010-2011, Sun Products Corporation invested in a project to construct a 1.4 million sq. ft. distribution center.
Fabricated Metals, Industrial Machinery, Plastics
Companies such as Berry Plastics, Casco Products/Sequa Automotive Group, Halton Company, Logan Aluminum, Trace Die Cast and Ventra Plastics are growing in South Central Kentucky because of the competitive assets in their sectors. Training and education options are readily available, with Bowling Green Technical College providing training in programs such as CNC machining and injection molding, and a machinist academy. Classes for full-time and part-time students—and individualized company training—are affordable, accessible and quality-driven
Ventra Plastics, located in Russellville, produces interior and exterior parts for the automotive sector, including accelerator pedal stops, fenders, front grill covers, tailgate liners and more. The company announced an expansion in 2011 with plans to add 25 employee to its current employment base of 250 and to invest nearly $3.4 million.
As a first and second tier supplier of aluminum die cast components and assemblies to the automotive industry, Trace Die Cast, Inc. has expanded its facilities in South Central Kentucky seven times. With three manufacturing facilities, this locally based company has a total of 468 full-time employees—having expanded with an additional 57 jobs and a $4.85 million capital investment in 2011.
Food-related businesses Country Oven Bakery, Dart, Hill’s Pet Nutrition (part of Colgate-Palmolive Company) J.M. Smucker Company, Southern Foods and T. Marzetti Company—and multiple others—are located in South Central Kentucky, and such businesses thrive in the region because of assets like market access to a significant portion of the United States enables freshly processed food products to be delivered in a timely fashion
A part of The Kroger Company, Country Oven Bakery currently employs nearly 540 South Central Kentucky residents in full- and part-time positions. The Bowling Green plant, which makes frozen dough products, breads and iced cakes for Kroger, has been in operation for 40 years and has announced three expansions, the most recent of which was in 2010 and announced the addition of 33 new jobs and 50,000 square feet to the company's existing 177,000 square-foot facility to accommodate a second cake line.
Dart Container Corp. opened in Hart County in 1980 and has grown from 25 employees in a 230,000-sq.ft. facility to 1,090 employees and 2.93 million sq.ft., occupying 10 buildings on 67 acres. Dart manufactures foam cups and bowls, printed foam cups, lids, plates, hinged foam trays, portion containers, food containers and plastic plates and cups for restaurants, the food packaging industry and retail sales, and the company has expanded nine times in its 32-year history in Hart County.
The General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant is an important attraction for motorsports. As with automotive suppliers and advanced manufacturers, motorsports sector leaders find existing companies like Holley Performance Products, Quick Fuel Technology and RC Components to be beneficial for their businesses. The Beech Bend Dragstrip, the National Corvette Museum and the planned NCM Motorsports Park on the Museum’s property are also appealing assets. To be built on 184 acres adjacent to the Museum, the Motorsports Park will have a 2.94-mile road course, an autocross/skid pad area, a paddock and a control tower/administration building.
Holley Performance Products is a leading manufacturer of fuel systems among racers and high performance auto enthusiasts. The company moved its carburetor manufacturing facility to Bowling Green in 1953 and relocated its corporate office to Bowling Green from Michigan in 1992. In early 2012, the company announced an expansion at its Bowling Green facility, planning a capital investment of more than $7 million to build a new distribution center and up to 136 new jobs over the next several years to its already existing workforce of more than 250 employees. This announced expansion is a multi-faceted product encompassing the growth of the company's local distribution center and additional product manufacturing, and the launch of a new Demon Carburetion product line. Also, Holley will renovate its current Bowling Green facility.
Niche and Emerging Industries
Because of education and research capacity at Bowling Green Technical College and Western Kentucky University, there are several niche market opportunities within South Central Kentucky: cyber defense, cellulosic bio-fuel and medical devices markets.
EWA Government Systems, Inc., one of the premier cyber security and cyber defense companies in the United States, has an operations office at the Central Region Innovation & Commercialization Center at the WKU Center for Research & Development. Along with EWA, the WKU Center for Research & Development houses WKU’s Applied Research Centers, the WKU Small Business Development Center and the WKU Small Business Accelerator. The facility provides state-of-the-art research facilities in a 27-acre location with more than 275,000 square feet of space.
The WKU Nondestructive Analysis Center (NOVA Center) is part of the Center for Research & Development and is the only facility of its kind at a North American university as well as home to one of the largest Large Chamber Scanning Electron Microscopes (LC-SEM) in the world. The LC-SEM makes it possible for non-destructive analysis of samples up to 1,500 mm in diameter and 650 pounds—items such as an engine block and hubcaps can remain intact while analyzed in the LC-SEM.
The medical devices sector will also benefit from the large-scale hospital, The Medical Center, located in Bowling Green. Additionally, the healthcare infrastructure of Bowling Green is strongly supported by Western Kentucky University’s nursing program, which offers RN to NP degrees and is the university’s largest major. A component of the Bowling Green Downtown TIF District, a new medical complex will be built to house WKU’s nursing baccalaureate and doctorate degree programs and the doctorate of physical therapy degree program. This facility will become the largest medical complex in the South Central Kentucky region.
Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT)
The SHOT business sector has access to a variety of research and training benefits in South Central Kentucky, such as the WKU Center for Research & Development, metallurgy courses at WKU, and other training opportunities at Bowling Green Technical College.
South Central Kentucky is home to a world-class shooting facility—Rockcastle Shooting Center—which is frequently used by SHOT enthusiasts and industry experts. Rockcastle Shooting Center is used by top manufacturers as a tasting facility as well as a corporate meeting center.