By Andrea Richard
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
The coming of an auto-parts factory to Midway Station, the biggest investment in the industrial park in its 18-year history, is a game-changer for the city, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says.
Vandegrift said in an interview with the Midway Messenger that American Howa Kentucky Inc.’s decision to build a plant in Midway means that more factories will follow, now that AHK has demonstrated confidence in the property.
“If we bring in four to five industries over the next however many years, and each of them gets up to 100, 200, maybe 250 employees, it’s a total game-changer for the city of Midway,’ Vandegrift said. “It will change everything about the way we’re able to improve services and what we can add to our city.”
State officials said AHK will bring 54 jobs to Midway, but Vandegrift said Craig McAnelly, executive director of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, told him that the factory will bring 63 jobs to the city.
“In Midway, you count every nine jobs you can get,” Vandegrift said with a laugh. He said the factory will be the city’s largest employer after Midway University, and that will boost the city’s budget.
The city’s occupational tax is 2 percent of payroll. With the average auto-manufacturing employee making roughly $22/hr, the city would net $915.20 in tax per year from each employee. With 63 jobs at AHK, Midway would collect an additional $57,658 a year.
“You see why Thursday was such a good day for me?” asked Vandegrift, a former one-term city councilman who is in his first year as mayor.
AHK, a Japanese company based in Bowling Green, makes interior parts for the Toyota Camry, made in Georgetown. It expressed interest in purchasing 12 to 15 acres with an option to purchase five more, Vandegrift said.
“What we were able to sell them on here is that there is a huge benefit with their logistics, being this close to Toyota and right on the interstate,” Vandegrift said. “The land is really good. You don’t have to cut through a bunch of rock. It’s ready to dig. I fully expect the geotechnical report on the Roach property to say the same thing.”
The Roach property is a 38-acre, industrially zoned tract on the east side of Georgetown Road (KY 341) next to the industrially zoned part of Midway Station. The land was formerly a part of the 215-acre property known as the Homeplace Farm owned by the Roach family. The EDA has an option to buy it, and recently had it rezoned industrial.
According to the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County planning and zoning commission, when Midway Station was developed in the 1990s it was rezoned with certain conditions, and excluded the Roach property. EDA bought the remaining property.
After many years of little development, and the city and the county still paying off the bond issue used to buy the property, EDA and the city struck a deal with Lexington developer Dennis Anderson to transform most of the property into a residential an commercial development.
But that started as the Great Recession began, and Anderson did not exercise his option to buy the property. As the economy improved and industrial prospects surfaced, EDA had the rear 80 acres of the property zoned industrial.
Vandegrift said EDA optioned the Roach property “to give this company an option. From what I understand the company likes both spots. We should know very soon exactly where they want to go. But it appears like the Roach property right now.”
The mayor said AHK is in the process of picking out a contractor, and he hopes the contract will be signed soon.
“I had heard originally when this was still kind of under our hats that they may want to start breaking and digging in December, but that’s pretty ambitious,” Vandegrift said. “I would think we’re looking at the spring. That would be my guess.”
The mayor also said the city has another prospect for the industrial property at the rear of Midway Station.
“They just didn’t want to be the first one,” he said. “They wanted to know that it worked.”
The mayor said he’s “as confident as the process allows me to be” that the company will follow through.
The chances “are probably better than 50-50,” he said. “That’s being somewhat conservative about it, because there are a lot of things that come into play that prevent a company from relocating – and not just here, anywhere.”
Vandegrift said he’s not sure how many jobs the prospective company would bring to Midway, but assumes it would bring around the same number as AHK.
The mayor Vandegrift said he doesn’t see the city going after large factories: “I think we’re going to try to hit these companies that have between 50-100 employees and maybe they’ll want to expand.”
Vandegrift said he believes the industrially zoned land could hold six manufacturing plants, but the city’s strategy is to bring in about five similar sized industries to the area.
The mayor was excited about AHK coming to Midway.
“I think everybody was starting to believe it was never going to happen,” he said. “But now that it’s happening I think it’s going to snowball in the right direction.