By Bill Robinson
Canada is Kentucky’s nearest international neighbor and the state’s largest international trading partner. Of the state’s $22 billion in exports last year, nearly a third of them went to Canada.
On Wednesday, that relationship got a bit stronger as Gov. Steve Beshear joined local leaders and officials of Thunder Manufacturing to cut an opening ribbon on a metal stamping operation that will employ 45 people.
They will produce metal components that are part of automotive engine and transmission mounts.
The plant is the first outside Canada for Thunder, which started in 1965, and represents a $2.2 million investment by the firm.
“These things don’t just happen,” the governor said of the plant’s opening. They are result of public and private partnerships from at the local, state and international levels. He noted the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority had approved up to $650,000 in tax incentives to bring the Thunder plant to Kentucky.
The incentives are performance based, according to the state news release. They will allow Thunder to to keep a portion of its investment over the course of its agreement with the state through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
“This recession has been tough on all of us,” Beshear said, but then opening of manufacturing operations such as Thunder in Richmond shows the state is steadily recovering.
The governor noted that he had just come to Richmond from Winchester where he took part in a ceremony marking the expansion of a manufacturing operation.
The new plant’s opening means that 45 Kentuckians will be able to put their heads on their pillows at night more confident they can provide for their families, Beshear said.
As part of Wednesday’s ceremony, the governor presented a Kentucky flag to Singh Hansra, Thunder president and CEO, for the company to fly in front of the plant.
“We are excited to be opening our first U.S. facility here in Richmond,” said Gary Maas, the company’s head of sales. “We look forward to growing our presence here in Kentucky rapidly, and look at this as a long-term partnership with this community.”
Thunder had chosen to locate in Richmond and Kentucky because of its skilled work force, climate of manufacturing friendliness and location in an area rich in potential customers, Maas said.
The firm’s customers have supported Thunder’s decision to locate in Kentucky, he added.
“Madison County and Richmond give Thunder a perfect backdrop to attract additional skilled people,” Maas continued.
Thunder “will provide a place for creative, skilled people to work,” he said. “Richmond will provide those people with a lifestyle unmatched with NCAA sports at EKU, beautiful parks, great schools and country living moments away from all the convenience of shopping, dining and entertainment."
“Who knows? Maybe a hockey team is in the future,” he said to laughter and applause.
Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes said seeing the community grow is the most exciting part of his job.
“Communities don’t grow without jobs,” he said, which was what made Wednesday’s ceremony so special.
News that Thunder would locate in Richmond, creating 45 jobs, came last fall just two weeks after Intertape Polymer announced its was closing a plant, eliminating about 50 jobs.
Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark promised the Thunder executives they would not regret having opened a manufacturing plant here.