Kentucky Plant Unveils Expansion Tied To Electric Vehicles

A global auto parts supplier on Thursday announced a $51 million project adding 250 jobs at a rural Kentucky plant in an expansion tied to auto industry plans to ramp up electric vehicle production.

The stepped up output at the Firestone Industrial Products plant in Williamsburg will largely be geared toward producing air suspension systems for electric vehicles.

"Advanced air suspensions are increasingly a ‘must-have’ technology on premium electric vehicles, and Firestone is committed to maintaining its leadership in this exciting and important market,” said Emily Poladian, president of Firestone Industrial Products.

The company plans to break ground on the project soon, with completion expected by late next year.

Firestone opened its Whitley County operation in 1989. The southeastern Kentucky plant now employs more than 500 workers and produces about 4 million parts annually. The expansion will add 68,000 square feet of manufacturing space to accommodate new equipment and boost capacity.

“This company has been an important corporate partner in our state for decades, and this investment by Firestone in support of the emerging electric vehicle market ensures that will continue to be the case for years to come," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Ford said this week that it expects 40% of its global sales to be battery-electric vehicles by 2030 as it adds billions to what it’s spending to develop them. General Motors says it hopes to stop selling combustion vehicles by 2035.

President Joe Biden’s clean-energy agenda includes a sharp increase in the number of electric vehicles as part of his plan to address climate change.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority on Thursday preliminarily approved a performance-based agreement offering Firestone up to $6.5 million in tax incentives for meeting investment and long-running employment targets, Beshear's office said.

Those targets include paying an average hourly wage of $29 including benefits.

The company designs, tests and manufactures air suspensions at its Williamsburg operation. The company’s air springs are assembled at its plant in Dyersburg, Tennessee.

Firestone Industrial Products is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Inc.

Since 2020, auto-related companies in Kentucky have announced 36 new location and expansion projects, totaling more than $360 million in investments expected to create 1,500-plus full-time jobs, the governor's office said Thursday.

Firestone’s expansion was among four economic development projects announced by Beshear on Thursday. The projects represent combined investments of nearly $273 million and will bring a total of 505 jobs to Whitley, Shelby, Hardin and Fulton counties, the governor's office said.

Beshear says Kentucky is poised for a robust economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We see more economic activity, we see more possibility moving forward than ever in my lifetime,” the Democratic governor said recently.