Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced continued growth of electric vehicle-related manufacturing in the commonwealth, as Ascend Elements Inc., a producer of advanced, sustainable battery materials made from recycled lithium-ion batteries, will invest $310 million and create 250 full-time jobs in Christian County. The Governor noted this is the single largest economic development project in the county’s history.
“I am incredibly proud of how we in Kentucky have taken the initiative to ensure our state will be a leader in the automotive industry of the future,” Gov. Beshear said. “The addition of Ascend Elements to Hopkinsville is a tremendous step toward solidifying that foundation even further. This is a company focused on growing in a sustainable way and one that will benefit so many other businesses in our state and throughout North America. I want to welcome Ascend Elements to Kentucky and thank its leaders for their commitment to our talented workforce.”
Company officials said the current project is planned as Phase 1, with potential to increase to $1 billion in investment and a total of 400 full-time jobs with subsequent phases to establish the company’s largest U.S. operation.
The 450,000-square-foot facility on more than 140 acres in Hopkinsville’s Commerce Park II will be known as Apex 1. The location will house the company’s innovative Hydro-to-Cathode process, a closed-loop direct precursor synthesis manufacturing system that generates no toxic waste and minimal carbon emissions. The operation will produce enough recycled battery precursor and sustainable cathode active materials to equip up to 250,000 electric vehicles annually. Ascend’s Kentucky operation will serve a range of EV-related customers and build on current partnerships, including with American Honda Motor Co. and SK Battery America. Apex 1 is expected to be operational in 2024 and will create jobs that include engineers, chemists, warehouse associates and manufacturing operators. Company leaders expect the plant to create a $4.4 billion economic impact to Kentucky across construction and its first 10 years of operation.
“I’d like to thank Gov. Beshear and his staff for their support as well as everyone in Christian County and the City of Hopkinsville. Clean energy and climate technology industries are bringing good jobs to communities across the country, and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to locate Apex 1 in Southwest Kentucky,” said Michael O’Kronley, CEO of Ascend Elements. “We’re building something in Kentucky that doesn’t exist anywhere in the United States – a domestic source of sustainable lithium-ion cathode material for EV batteries.”
Founded in 2015 and based in Westborough, Massachusetts, Ascend raises the value of the battery supply chain by manufacturing advanced battery materials using valuable elements reclaimed from discarded lithium-ion batteries. The company maintains a mission to return 100% of battery active materials for production of new batteries. Ascend produces EV-grade, finished cathode active materials to meet or exceed performance requirements set by industry-leading brands.
Kentucky has established itself as a national leader in the burgeoning EV market over the past two years. Since June 2020, the commonwealth has seen over $8.5 billion in EV-related investments, with well over 8,000 full-time jobs announced.
In the past year, the Beshear administration announced the two largest economic development projects in state history. In September 2021, Gov. Beshear and leaders from Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation celebrated a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs in Hardin County. And in April of this year, the Governor was joined by leadership at Envision AESC to announce a $2 billion investment that will create 2,000 jobs in Warren County. These announcements solidify Kentucky as the EV battery production capital of the United States.
Hopkinsville Mayor Wendell Lynch said company leaders have already made a strong impression.
“The City of Hopkinsville is thrilled to support Ascend Elements and their decision to locate their state-of-the-art electric vehicle-related manufacturing facility in our community,” Mayor Lynch said. “I’ve been impressed with the company and its leadership since our initial meeting. I am confident that they’ll be a great community partner as they enjoy success for decades to come in Hopkinsville, Christian County and Southwestern Kentucky.”
Christian County Judge/Executive Steve Tribble thanked everyone who had a role in bringing the project to Kentucky.
“I am honored to represent Christian County government as we join Gov. Andy Beshear, the Cabinet for Economic Development, TVA, City of Hopkinsville, Pennyrile Area Development District, West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and other strategic partners to provide Ascend Elements with an awesome opportunity to invest over $300 million and create 250 jobs for the residents of Christian County and Southwestern Kentucky,” Judge Tribble said. “Their decision to select Commerce Park II for their new facility continues to demonstrate that our region, community and state are ready to help companies grow in our business-friendly environment.”
South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council Executive Director Carter Hendricks said today’s announcement is the result of months of hard work.
“Every economic development project is unique and exciting, and this is certainly true for Ascend Elements. After months of discussion and assistance, we are thrilled that Ascend Elements and its leadership has selected Commerce Park II and are appreciative of the partners and support that has been provided to secure this commitment and investment,” Hendricks said. “As a result, 250 families will have transformative opportunities in a world-class company and our region will reap the benefit for years to come. We offer a special thanks to Gov. Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Tennessee Valley Authority and countless local and regional partners that have contributed on this project. We pledge this same sense of partnership and teamwork to ensure Ascend Elements’ success for generations to come.”
John Bradley, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) senior vice president of economic development, noted the impact of Ascend creating 250 jobs in Southwestern Kentucky.
“TVA and Pennyrile RECC congratulate Ascend Elements on its decision to locate and create hundreds of new jobs in Christian County. Helping attract and retain jobs and investment to the region is fundamental to TVA’s mission of service,” Bradley said. “We are proud to partner with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Southwestern Kentucky Economic Development Council to further that mission and celebrate this announcement together.”
Ascend’s investment and planned job creation furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth, as the state builds back stronger from the effects of the pandemic.
In 2021, the commonwealth shattered every economic development record in the books. Private-sector new-location and expansion announcements included a record $11.2 billion in total planned investment and commitments to create a record 18,000-plus full-time jobs across the coming years. Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide in 2021 was $24 before benefits, a 9.4% increase over the previous year.
The economic momentum has carried strongly into 2022, with both S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings upgrading Kentucky’s financial outlook to positive in recognition of the commonwealth’s surging economy.
And Site Selection magazine placed Kentucky at 6th in its annual Prosperity Cup rankings for 2022, which recognizes state-level economic success based on capital investments.
Kentucky has posted new record low unemployment rates for three consecutive months, falling from 3.9% in April to 3.8% in May and 3.7% in June.
In July, the Governor reported the highest annual growth rate in 31 years. And for the second year in a row, Kentucky’s General Fund budget surplus has exceeded $1 billion. Also in July, Gov. Beshear reported that the state’s Rainy Day fund is up to a record balance of $2.7 billion, significantly higher than the $129 million balance the fund had when the Governor took office.
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 $7.5 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $310 million and annual targets of:
Creation and maintenance of 250 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years; and
Paying an average hourly wage of $34 including benefits across those jobs.
Additionally, KEDFA approved the company for up to $2 million 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.
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, Ascend 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.