JOB NEWS: Martin solar project, 500 Consumer Cellular jobs, more candy work

Announcements range from new companies to long-time employers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state announced several economic development projects Thursday, ranging from renewable energy in Martin County to more candy jobs in Boone County.

The Martin County Solar Project, under development by Savion, is moving forward with plans to locate on a former coal mine in unincorporated Martin County, a project that includes up to a $231 million investment and creation of 11 full-time Kentucky jobs.

“We are building a future that works for all Kentuckians, and that future includes an increased reliance on renewable energy,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in making the announcements. “To maintain the incredible economic momentum we have established this year, we must continue to compete for all forms of energy investment. I want to thank Savion for choosing Kentucky.”

The solar energy generation facility will be located on approximately 1,200 acres on the old Martiki mine site in Martin County, interconnecting with Kentucky Power’s 138-kilovolt Inez Substation. When built, the project will create capacity of up to 200 megawatts and will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 33,000 Kentucky homes.

Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2022 and be commercially operational by early 2024. During the 12- to 18-month construction period, company leaders report the project will create between 250 and 300 construction jobs, in addition to 11 full-time Kentucky jobs, including eight in Martin County. Upon completion, the project will be one of the largest solar energy generation facilities operating in Kentucky.

“It’s exciting to reach this milestone in the project’s development, which moves us closer to the start of construction and commercial operation,” said Erich Miarka, director of development for Savion. “This opportunity would not be possible without the support of Martin County, Martin County School District, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Edelen Renewables. Thank you for your continued efforts to advance this unprecedented project.”

Established in 2019 and headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Savion is a company focused on utility-scale solar and energy storage projects in 27 states. Savion employs more than 120 people, providing comprehensive services at each phase of renewable energy project development, from conception to construction. The company currently oversees the development of nearly 90 solar projects and more than 40 energy storage projects in the U.S. totaling over 15 gigawatts.

Savion’s solar project includes a local partnership with Edelen Renewables, which has played a key role in the initial phase of development.

“This country owes a tremendous debt to the people and communities that powered the industrial development of America for a century: our miners and coal communities,” said Adam Edelen, founder and CEO of Edelen Renewables. “The Martin County coal-to-solar project is an effort to bring the opportunities of a newer, greener economy to the coalfields. Doing so has required the strong support of the Beshear administration and local leadership. We are grateful to all for their support.”

Martin County Judge/Executive Victor Slone said the project will benefit the community in the years ahead.

“On behalf of the Martin County Fiscal Court, I am excited to see the Martin County Solar Project come to fruition,” Judge/Executive Slone said. “This investment will impact our community for years to come. I look forward to the new jobs that will be created in Martin County throughout the course of this project, and I am confident other companies will take notice of the opportunity to invest in Martin County as a result.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) approved Martin County Solar Project for up to $600,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

In addition, Martin County Solar can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.

Meanwhile, Consumer Cellular Inc., a provider of cellphones, no-contract cellular plans and accessories, will locate its first Kentucky operation in Louisville, creating 486 full-time jobs with a more than $15.5 million investment.

Consumer Cellular will locate in an existing building on Triton Boulevard in Louisville. The new customer support center will allow the company to better serve customers on a national scale. Jobs created through the project include management and call center support positions. Company leaders expect to add more than 400 of the new roles in 2022.

Founded in 1995, Oregon-based Consumer Cellular is a postpaid mobile virtual network operator that offers cellphones, low-cost, no-contract cellular plans and accessories focused on users over age 50. The company operates exclusively in the U.S. and employs more than 2,400 people across four locations in Arizona and Oregon.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer welcomed the continued economic growth in the region.

“Each new company announcement is another sign that our city is regaining the strong momentum it was experiencing prior to the pandemic,” Mayor Fischer said. “In the first 11 months of this year, we have announced 48 projects creating 3,347 new jobs and investing $920 million in our city, and we are happy to add Consumer Cellular, which will bring with it a significant number of new jobs, to that list.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) today preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $5.5 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $15.51 million and annual targets of:

  • Creation and maintenance of 486 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 10 years; and
  • Paying an average hourly wage of $20 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, Consumer Cellular can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.

Finally, Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc., part of Perfetti Van Melle Group B.V., one of the world’s largest candy manufacturers, will expand its presence in unincorporated Boone County with an investment of more than $9.8 million that will create a minimum of 16 new full-time production jobs.

Perfetti Van Melle USA, which produces well-known brands such as Airheads, Mentos, Fruit-tella and Chupa Chups and operates two facilities near Erlanger, will add a new candy manufacturing line at its facility at 3645 Turfway Road in response to increased demand for its products.

The investment also supports installation of an additional automated packaging area.

Currently, Perfetti Van Melle USA employs about 460 people, mainly in Northern Kentucky. New job creation will include at least 16 production positions at a regionally competitive starting wage, with performance-based bonuses and opportunities to increase base pay through a skills-development program. Work on the project is expected to be completed by June 2022.

This expansion pushes the company’s investment in its Northern Kentucky operations since 2017 to more than $35 million to expand capacity and improve infrastructure and technology. In that time, the company also has more than doubled its local workforce.

“With our growth consistently outpacing the U.S. confectionery category for several years, this capacity expansion is critical for us to continue meeting the growing demand for our products,” said Perfetti Van Melle North America President and CEO Sylvia Buxton. “After considering various locations within the Perfetti Van Melle global network, it was clear that expanding our manufacturing capacity here in Northern Kentucky was the right choice, given the potential incentives offered to attract more job-generating investment by business to the region. The region has great proximity to our customers, a strong and diverse workforce base, and a thriving business support network. We’re excited, as this KEIA incentive will help us continue making life sweeter and providing a great place to work in Northern Kentucky.”

Perfetti Van Melle USA is part of the privately owned, Amsterdam-based Perfetti Van Melle Group, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and marketers of confectionery and chewing gum, with renowned brands enjoyed in more than 150 countries.

Perfetti Van Melle USA’s latest investment builds on Kentucky’s strong food, beverage and agritech sector, which includes more than 350 facilities and employs over 52,000 people. Since the start of 2020, new location and expansion projects within the industry are expected to create more than 2,500 full-time jobs with over $1.7 billion in new investments. The project also adds to the commonwealth’s nearly 5,000 manufacturing facilities statewide, which employ more than 250,000 Kentucky residents.

Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore congratulated Perfetti Van Melle USA leaders on the company’s continued growth and success.

“Life in Northern Kentucky is indeed sweeter with Perfetti Van Melle here,” Judge/Executive Moore said. “Perfetti is an outstanding corporate citizen, deeply involved in the community and provides excellent benefits to its employees. We’re thrilled they are continuing to invest and create new jobs in Boone County.”

Lee Crume, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, noted the company is part of a thriving food and beverage industry in the region.

“Through our business retention outreach program and initiative to build relationships with CEOs in Northern Kentucky, we have a strong rapport with Perfetti’s key leaders,” Crume said. “Perfetti Van Melle is a key contributor to the food and beverage sector in the Cincinnati region and its growth and investment is a result of the key talent available here.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) today approved Perfetti Van Melle USA for up to $100,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

In addition, the company can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.

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