Whitehall Plant to Open in 2013, Create 150 Jobs
By Bill Hughes
PADUCAH, KY - Chad Chancellor's determination - in spite of a wreck in the snow - was apparently worth it.
A trip to Ludington, Michigan, during a February snowstorm got the President of Paducah Economic Development a tour of Whitehall Industries, even thought company President Yogen Rahangdale said he had already decided on the location of his new aluminum manufacturing plant.
Both men told their versions of that first meeting Tuesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in Paducah. Whitehall Industries will invest about $13 million, create 150 jobs, and manufacture aluminum parts for Kentucky's expanding automobile industry.
After Chancellor convinced Rahangdale to let a group from Paducah come later that month, his interest was piqued, and he visited McCracken County a short time later. By the time he left for home, a "handshake deal" was in place, because Rahangdale was impressed with the city, which reminded him of Ludington.
"When we came here - Paducah, I said, 'This is beautiful.' This is on the water like Ludington, there's people like Ludington. The school is next to here, within a mile, where our people can be trained, and support from the government and local institutions," Rahangdale said.
WKCTC has agreed to facilitate hiring and training employees for the manufacuture of aluminum parts.
Rahangdale said aluminum automobile parts are in higher demand than ever before because of fuel efficiency demands on vehicles. For example, the new Ford F-150 pickup weighs 750 pounds less than the previous model because steel is being replaced with aluminum.
Rahangdale said he is proud to lead a manufacturing company, because they create wealth and jobs, which helps the economy in other areas.
Governor Steve Beshear was on hand to thank Whitehall Industries for their decision, and congratulate city and county officials for working together on short notice to get the property, permits, and design work finished.
"These things just don't come along and land in our laps. They happen because of a lot of hard work by a lot of people. People that come together that work as a team. And that teamwork is what's paid off here today," Beshear said.
The state chipped in with tax incentives to sweeten the deal, too.
Rahangdale expressed appreciation to everyone for their hard work and hospitality, and promised to have the plant open by the end of the year.
He said, "I want to thank you - everybody - for coming here and welcoming us, and we want to start - December, I want this plant running. If you don't set the goals, you don't accomplish anything, and we will be running in December."
After an eruption of applause, Rahangdale said that puts some pressure on his Plant Manager and some other people in the construction phase, but it will be worth it. He added that there is a possible phase 2 of the plant sometime in the future, which could expand their production even more.
City and County officials echoed Beshear's sentiment. Mayor Gayle Kaler said, "It takes everyone to do this," and area families need these jobs. City Commissioner Zana Renfro said she's been impressed by the "can-do attitude" she's seen lately, and Ronnie Freeman told Rahangdale to tell his manufacturing friends that Paducah is "Open for business."