Despite the dreary weather on Thursday morning, there was plenty to be happy about as the Asahi Forge Corporation broke ground on their third plant in Richmond.

Gathered under a tent across the street from Asahi Bluegrass Forge plant, some of Richmond's prominent gathered, such as Mayor Robert Blythe, State Rep. Deanna Frazier and presidents from several area corporations, to be apart of the historic event.

"It's very unique for Richmond to get an expansion like this to have three plants from the same corporation," Richmond Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) Executive Director David Stipe said.

Asahi Forge Corporation first broke ground in the Richmond area in 2002 when the corporation asked to lease 18 acres of land from Richmond Auto Parts Technology (RAPT). A year later, the company held a ground-breaking ceremony for Asahi Forge of America (AFA) Corporation.

Since their opening, AFA has expanded twice and now boasts 75 associates.

"In March 2016, Asahi Forge of America Corporation purchased the land they had leased from RAPT, plus a little more. Today, they now own, according to my records, (19.8) acres in park number two," said Jimmy Howard, member of the RIDC board and former Richmond city manager.

Howard was approached by Kiki Creech, accounting manager for AFA, who said she and another associate would like to meet. During the meeting, Howard said he was pleasantly surprised to learn that AFA was interested in building a second plant in industrial park three.

In April of 2011, Asahi Bluegrass Forge (ABF) broke ground for a second time after fair and reasonable negotiations for 22 acres of land, according to Howard.

After the opening of ABF in 2012, it has seen one expansion and has 75 associates.

Howard thanked Creech for her assistance during the project, as her help was invaluable every step of the way.

In 2018, Stipes announced to the RIDC that Asahi was going to purchase land for a third manufacturing plant.

"Today is a very important day for the city of Richmond. Ground is about to be broken for a third plant," Howard said. "Perhaps there is another city in Kentucky that's had the good fortune of having a company to build three plants in their industrial park but I can't name that city, I don't believe they exist. We are very fortunate."

Creech spoke to the audience in attendance at the groundbreaking as well, and noted that the new plant was apart of a three columned business plan, the first being hub production which is already established with ABF and AFA, the second being the groundbreaking location and third that will work on suspension products.

"As I mentioned, this is the second business column for Asahi Forge. This means we're not done yet," she said.

Creech said the corporation plans to hire 80 people and hopes to have $50 million in annual sales by 2023. The total capital investment for this project will be $40 million. The company that has been contracted to build the plant is Denham-Blythe, which also was contracted for the Okonite Company. Asahi hopes to see the completion of the new plant by May 2020.

Hiroshi Asahi, president of Asahi Forge Corporation, said he likes Richmond and that it has very kind people, one of the reasons why his company chose to build here again. He also noted that having all of his corporations in one spot made it easier to control operations, especially when looking towards the future of the company.

For more information about the Asahi Forge Corporation, visit https://www.asahiforge.co.jp/en.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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