By Lane Report staff

Kentucky governor Matt Bevin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

A $1.3 billion project in Greenup County with 500 jobs is expected to be the issue when Kentucky’s economic tax incentive authority conducts a special meeting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Gov. Matt Bevin is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. in Greenup County to announced a much anticipated economic project for Eastern Kentucky.

Referencing the legislature’s approval of $15 million in bonds at the end of its 2017 to help land an undisclosed major economic development project, Bevin told The Daily Independent newspaper in Ashland last week that the impact of the proposed Eastern Kentucky project would be felt “throughout this region of the country.”

Legislative leaders said then the bonds they approved could help Kentucky land a company that would invest $1.3 billion and create 500 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $75,000. It’s also projected to provide 1,000 temporary construction jobs. The Herald-Leader newspaper in Lexington reported Tuesday that a Jessamine County legislator said the mystery project apparently is an aluminum plant.

If it happens, this would be Kentucky’s third economic development announcement this year involving more than $1 billion in investment. In January, Amazon said it will invest $1.497 billion to create its first Prime Air delivery hub at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. Earlier this month, Toyota said it will invest $1.3 billion at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky to upgrade its vehicle and engine production plant in Georgetown, its largest facility in the world. The Amazon project is expected to create 2,000 to 2,500 new jobs.

Kentucky is has one of the nation’s top aluminum production clusters. A November 2015 Lane Report cover story described the sector as being responsible for $7 billion annually, and there have been multiple announcements of new operations and expansions in the state since. Kentucky is the number three vehicle producing state, and makers have been shifting from steel to lighter aluminum to improve vehicle milage. The state also has a significant aerospace manufacturing sector, which is another aluminum consumer.

If it comes to fruition, the latest project would be the third Kentucky economic announcement this year of more than $1 billion. In January, Amazon announced it will build its first Prime Air distribution and delivery hub at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport at an investment of $1.497 billion. Two weeks ago Toyota said it will spend $1.3 billion to modernize its 30-year-old Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky facility in Georgetown, the Japanese vehicle producer’s largest facility in the world.

The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority includes only one item “to consider a Kentucky Business Investment project in Greenup County.” KBI is one of the state’s programs that cut future tax obligations for companies if they fulfill commitments to make agreed upon investments, and to create and maintain numbers of jobs paying at or above agreed upon levels. Tax incentives are spread over time, often divided equally for 10 to 20 years.

“Gov. Matt Bevin will announce an economic development project that will positively impact Kentucky’s eastern region,” at McConnell House in Wurtland, Ky., his office announced Tuesday morning.

Wurtland is northeast of Ashland, Ky., on the Ohio River in northeastern Kentucky. Greenup County is part of the Ashland-Huntington, W.Va. metropolitan statistical area.

The governor told the newspaper last week that he could not yet provide details on the prospective economic development project in eastern Kentucky, except that if finalized it would “have a ripple effect throughout Eastern Kentucky and, frankly, throughout this region of the country.”

State legislators on the last day of their 2017 session in March approved a request by the Bevin administration for up to $15 million in bonds for an unspecified project to help Kentucky compete against at least one other state trying to land the project. The authorization was written so that it only could be used for a specific project intended, it was said then, to benefit Eastern Kentucky, whose local economies have increasingly struggled as coal mining operations in the region slowed and closed and laid off the majority of their miners.

The other states have been notified they are no longer in the running for the project Kentucky hopes to announce soon, Bevin said two weeks ago in Georgetown. He said he could not reveal details, but did say that the size of the project was “north of a billion” dollars. The Lexington newspaper cited WHAS-AM radio has reporting that Bevin told a group of investors he was speaking to in New York City on Monday that he would be announcing a $1.3 billion project on Wednesday.

State officials said a nondisclosure agreement with the company prevents them from naming the company or the sites being considered.

Bevin told The Daily Independent that if the project is announced, the company “will make clear the only reason they are here is because of the fact we passed that right-to-work legislation.”

The General Assembly in January passed right-to-work legislation during its initial week of work under full Republican control for the first time in more than 90 years.