Business owners, officials see potential in Century Aluminum expansion

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As preparations continue for hundreds of more workers at century aluminum’s plant in Hancock County, some county leaders and business owners are starting to measure its potential impact.

The company announced more than 250 new jobs, and more than $116 million in investment yesterday.

The announcement of new jobs here has been expected ever since President Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last month. While the new workers won’t start for a while, some already look forward to the expanded business. 

They make aluminum at the Hawesville plant, but at Jeremy Chappell’s restaurant, Galaxy Pizza And BBQ, they make lunch.

“We depend on the industries greatly for our business,” he said. Chappell says plants in the county, including Century, make up for as much as 75% of its business.  With new jobs announced, Chappell hopes to gain back the business he lost after hundreds of century workers were laid off three years ago.

“For me, I’m just hoping to regain the 5 to 6% that I lost. I know that all of the community businesses are dependent on them also,” Chappell said. “I think the whole community is excited to see this come back.”

Century officials say they plan to use their $116 million investment to update smelting capabilities, and train new and current workers on the new equipment. Governor Matt Bevin called the announcement a boon for Hancock County and Hawesville. Hancock County Judge Executive Jack McCaslin says the rehiring will be great for those laid off a few years ago.

“My initial was that I was excited about the jobs, and then of course, I just kind of doubted it,” says Melissa Mooneyham of Hancock County, who knew people who used to work at Century. Some residents like her say they’re skeptical of the long term economic impact, but believe there’s potential for better business.

“I think if they kick off what they really do and stay with it, I think it will have a huge impact on Hancock County and the local counties,” she says.

To help with the expansion, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved tax incentives of up to $5.5 million.

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(This story was originally published April 5, 2018)

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