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Beshear: Kentucky To Become Electric Vehicle Leader

Karyn Czar, WUKY

Ford’s selection of Kentucky to build twin battery plants will vault the state into a global leadership role in the electric vehicle market, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday in celebrating the state’s single largest-ever economic development project. A day after the $5.8 billion Glendale project was unveiled, Beshear said the state already is hearing from prospective suppliers that could create more jobs in the state’s burgeoning automotive sector.

Beshear joined Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and the automaker’s CEO, Jim Farley, to celebrate the mega-project that will create 5,000 jobs. State lawmakers and other state officials gathered for the event in front of the Kentucky Capitol.

“We are humbled you’ve entrusted us with a big part of your great company’s future,” the Democratic governor told the Ford executives. “We will not let you down.”

The project outside the tiny Glendale community in Hardin County will be transformational, positioning Kentucky for global leadership in the fast-developing electric vehicle sector, Beshear said. The two Kentucky battery plants will be built on a 1,551-acre (627 hectare) site near Interstate 65.

“We know horsepower and it’s about to be generated in a whole new way,” the governor said.

Teaming with its battery partner, SK Innovation of South Korea, Ford announced Monday it will spend $5.6 billion in Stanton, Tennessee, where it will build a factory to produce electric F-Series pickups. A joint venture called BlueOvalSK will construct a battery factory on the same site near Memphis, plus the twin battery plants in Glendale.

Farley on Tuesday called the investments a “bold bet on the future” that will “jump-start a whole new industry in America -- high-tech battery production.” The Kentucky and Tennessee plants will produce vehicle-ready batteries on a scale unimaginable just a few years ago, he said.

“Together, these facilities will have the capacity to build nearly twice as many batteries as are built in all of America today,” Farley said. “That’s enough battery production to turn out a million vehicles a year.”

The factories will make batteries for the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles that will be produced in North America. Combined, they mark the single largest manufacturing investment the 118-year-old company has ever made and are among the largest factory outlays in the world.

Beshear praised the state’s Republican-dominated legislature for recently approving an incentives package that the governor has credited with helping lure the massive battery project to Glendale.

The governor, who has had a rocky relationship at times with the legislature, said: “I think we proved that politics will never keep us from creating better jobs for our people.”

With the new spending, Ford is making a significant bet on a future that envisions most drivers eventually making the shift to battery power from internal combustion engines, which have powered vehicles in the United States for more than a century. Ford predicts 40% to 50% of its U.S. sales will be electric by 2030. For now, only about 1% of vehicles on America’s roads are powered by electricity.

The new project builds on a more than century-long partnership between Kentucky and Ford.

Kentucky workers rolled a Model T off a Ford assembly line in Louisville in 1913. The Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville directly employ about 13,000 workers.

That foundational relationship was a big factor in Kentucky landing the battery plants, Farley said.

“There was no guesswork,” he told reporters after the event. “We know the proof is in the pudding here in Kentucky.”