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Patience 'Worn Thin' On Stalled Kentucky Aluminum Mill

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Unity Aluminum
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As the commonwealth welcomes a record-breaking investment by Ford Motor Co. in the state, a once-celebrated aluminum mill project has lawmakers frustrated and ready to yank state dollars out.

Top officials with Unity Aluminum, previously known as Braidy Industries, were on the hot seat again this week, as lawmakers demanded answers about the delayed Ashland, Kentucky aluminum plant. The project has been plagued by fundraising failures, missed deadlines, and the ouster of the CEO formerly overseeing the venture.

Speaking remotely to a committee, Nate Haynes, senior vice president of global affairs and commercial operations for Unity, offered another round of assurances.

"We've represented this and repositioned this to the financial markets and we have had quite a bit of momentum," Haynes insisted, acknowledging that the company had not closed on the financing for the project in the third quarter.

The response was not enough to convince Sen. Chris McDaniel, who was blunt in his assessment of the ongoing drama surrounding the proposal. The Republican said he's preparing legislation that will call for Kentucky to claw back its $15 million investment in the mill.  

"One of the worst financial votes I've ever taken was this one. I feel like two administrations now and multiple General Assemblies have been played for fools and written down the road, and I think the patience has largely worn thin," the senator said.

Kentucky pledged the taxpayer dollars toward the project under former Gov. Matt Bevin, but current Gov. Andy Beshear has repeatedly vowed to get the money back if the mill project doesn't materialize.

The project planners said it no longer involves any Russian investment, a provision that sparked controversy early in the process. Rusal, a formerly blacklisted Russian company, once had a major stake in the 10-figure project. The company suspended the investment earlier this year.

Unity maintains it can get the project back on track and have the mill — originally slated for completion in 2020 — up and running by 2025.