It’s Official: LION to reopen Beattyville plant after more than a decade
BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – After weeks of rumors and stories, a manufacturer has made it official, LION First Responder PPE Inc., a manufacturer of firefighter garments and other first responder equipment and apparel, will reopen its Lee County facility after 11 years, a project that will create 75 full-time jobs in Eastern Kentucky with an $850,000 investment.
“As we work to build a better future for families across the commonwealth, the return of LION First Responder PPE to Beattyville, a community that has faced more than its share of difficulties during the past year, is a tremendous boost to the economy in Lee County and Eastern Kentucky,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in announcing the project.
“LION long has been an important employer throughout the region, currently creating jobs for over 400 people in our state. Their decision to locate this new venture in their former facility in Beattyville highlights the quality of the region’s workforce. LION’s commitment to Kentucky is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to seeing the company’s continued growth in the commonwealth,” Beshear added.
LION plans to reopen at 1080 Center Street off Fairgrounds Ridge Road in Beattyville, the same 50,000-square-foot facility where the company manufactured firefighter protective garment outer shells for 30 years until its closure in 2010.
The new operation will produce thermal liners, the innermost layer of firefighter protective garments.
The company’s investment will accommodate facility renovations and new sewing and seam sealing equipment.
Through the project, LION also will establish an apprenticeship program with the Lee County Area Technology Center. Company leaders anticipate the facility will begin operation by October.
The Beattyville location joins LION’s existing manufacturing location in West Liberty and a distribution and manufacturing facility in Hazel Green. The company currently employs 407 people in Kentucky.
“We are very excited to bring back apparel manufacturing jobs to Beattyville,” said LION CEO Steve Schwartz. “We currently have over 20 employees that we bus to West Liberty each day, so we are excited to offer them the opportunity to work closer to home should they choose to do so.
“We know the talent located in this community is uniquely qualified to create the highest quality, hand-crafted technical garments that our firefighters deserve and expect. We thank Beattyville Mayor Scott Jackson, Lee County Judge/Executive Chuck Caudill Jr., Lee County Schools Superintendent Sarah Wasson, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program for their support in making this project successful.”
Mark Smith, president of LION Americas, said reestablishing the Lee County operation will help the company meet rising customer demand.
“Over the last two years, we have aggressively invested to expand our manufacturing capacity, but it has not been enough to meet strong demand for our products when combined with the disruptions we have seen in both the supply chain and labor markets over the past 18 months,” Smith said. “The Beattyville facility is a great complement to our current efforts and reaffirms our commitment to improve delivery times to meet our customers’ expectations. We understand there is still much work to be done, but we are appreciative of the support and patience we continue to see with our distribution and fire department partners. When the Beattyville plant is fully operational, this move will provide LION with the largest capacity for manufacturing firefighter turnout gear in our industry.”
LION is a family-owned company founded in 1898 and headquartered in Dayton, Ohio.
The company manufactures a wide range of first responder apparel and equipment, including fire service garments and public safety personal protective equipment. LION’s services include PPE cleaning, inspection and repair.
The company also produces structures and equipment used in fire safety training. LION currently employs 940 people companywide with additional manufacturing operations in Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Toronto.
Manufacturers in Kentucky operate approximately 4,500 facilities, employing 260,000 people. In 2020, manufacturers made 156 project announcements, representing plans for more than 3,800 new jobs and nearly $1.56 billion in new investment.
Lee County Judge/Executive Chuck Caudill Jr. said the project was the result of local and state organizations working together.
“Lee County would like to welcome LION back to Lee County. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship for the company and our community,” Judge/Executive Caudill said. “We appreciated the opportunity to sell our community to the corporation and the tireless efforts of the Lee County School Administration, Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Kentucky River Area Development District, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, City of Beattyville and Department for Local Government that allowed us to make a case to answer the many issues every corporation must address when making major capital investments to expand. The concerted effort by all made this possible.”
Beattyville Mayor Scott Jackson welcomed the company back to the community.
“We’re very happy that LION has decided to come back to Beattyville and Lee County,” Mayor Jackson said. “I’d like to thank the Cabinet for Economic Development for providing assistance on the project. It will be very beneficial to the county and the city.”
Chuck Sexton, president and CEO of One East Kentucky, noted the importance of continued job creation throughout the region.
“One East Kentucky is always ready to provide guidance to additional communities and companies in the greater Eastern Kentucky region, because our mission is all about furthering job creation,” Sexton said. “This project will be a great fit for LION, as well as our friends in Lee County. We look forward to seeing their progress over the coming years.”
The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), which works with businesses across Eastern Kentucky to meet workforce needs, will provide on-the-job training for new hires at LION. EKCEP Executive Director Jeff Whitehead said the company’s return to the community will provide a much needed economic boost.
“We’re excited to see a major plant like LION return to our mountains and bring with it new manufacturing jobs at a time when Beattyville and Lee County are on the rebound from not only COVID-19, but also this year’s historic flood,” Whitehead said. “We need industry like this in our region to help drive and thrive local economies and provide quality job opportunities for the citizens we serve, and we look forward to participating in this reopening that will help Lee County further rejuvenate and rebuild its economy.”
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 15-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $850,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $850,000 and annual targets of:
- Creation and maintenance of 75 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years; and
- Paying an average hourly wage of $19.60 including benefits across those jobs.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, LION can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.