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Braidy Industries’ Bouchard confident Atlas mill on path to impacting Eastern Kentucky economy

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard expressed confidence Tuesday that the company is in perfect position to open its $1.7 billion Atlas mill in northeastern Kentucky in 2021 – and it has done it faster than anybody expected.

As of Tuesday, he said, $300 million has been raised and the majority of the capital needed is now in hand either in cash, binding commitments or letters of intent.

In other words, he said, it’s coming.

Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard talks to students in the Braidy-prepared Advanced Integrated Technology class at Ashland Community & Technical College in the spring. (Photo by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today)

“Our progress building one of the largest mills in the world has gone faster than any project of this size in memory,” Bouchard said. “We couldn’t be more excited about our future and the positive impact we will have on the economy of eastern Kentucky.”

The plant, scheduled to be built at the EastPark Industrial Center near Ashland, would be the largest greenfield aluminum rolling mill in the world and the first one built in the United States in 37 years.

The mill was given $15 million in state taxpayer seed money two years ago and is considered the main building block to the future economy in eastern Kentucky. The area has been hit hard with job losses in steel and coal over the last 25 years.

Braidy represents hope for the region and Bouchard knows it, even though there are naysayers.

“When I drive past that rusting AK Steel plant on the Ohio River, I feel sick for the 7,000 proud American men and women who once worked at that magnificent plant,” Bouchard said. “These blows to the community led to the opioid plague that is taking our kids.”

Some have questioned Braidy’s partnership with United Co. Rusal, a Russian-based company expected to supply 200,000 tons of low-carbon prime aluminum in slabs over a 10-year period. Rusal made a $200 million investment in Braidy that included them taking 40 percent share of the mill.

“Our mill has no government contracts and there are no national security issues involved,” Bouchard said. “This was poorly reported by publications that did not do their homework.”

He said Braidy would be the only majority American-owned aluminum mill of the ones operating in Kentucky.

“The mill in Logan, Kentucky, is half Indian-owned (Novelis) and half Japanese owned,” Bouchard said. “Bowling Green is Dutch (Constellium). Aleris in Lewisport is being sold to the Indians (Novelis).”

Rusal is making payments to Braidy in phases, according to Braidy’s recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The subsidiary can suspend or terminate its obligation if Braidy fails to secure its own $300 million contribution after four months have passed, the filing said.

But there’s much more to the SEC filing, the CEO said. They even cancelled an application for a loan from the Department of Energy.

“Our filing demonstrates Braidy Industries has raised equity, binding commitments or signed letters of intent for the majority of capital required for this project,” Bouchard said. “This includes investments from more than 800 investors, including main street Kentuckians. It further highlights our commitment to bring this important project to fruition for Kentucky while successfully concluding the crowd-funding component as a micro-piece of our much larger private financing plan.

“As private debt capital markets continue to embrace Braidy Industries, another party came forward with a better offer than the terms proposed by the Department of Energy. Upon examining the offer and its benefits, we cancelled our DOE application and signed a letter of intent for up to $900 million of leasing finance with another party.”

The finalized deal with Rusal is 12 percent of the total capital invested in the mill, Bouchard said. Rusal uses hydropower instead of coal or gas to make their prime aluminum.

“They are the only aluminum smelter that uses virtually all hydro,” Bouchard said. “That’s not a coincidence. They intelligently designed their company that way and did so way before green became popular.”

Low-carbon aluminum is in short supply around the world, he said. “Rusal opens the first new hydro smelter in a generation in 2021. We open our mill in 2021. They can supply the large quantities we need. The timing is perfect for both of us.”

Bouchard said Braidy has the only low emissions air permit ever granted to an aluminum mill by the EPA. “Braidy becomes the real ‘green new deal’ and our community will become the model for healthy advanced manufacturing,” he said.

Bouchard announced on Facebook Tuesday that Braidy has a deal with “one of the biggest supply contracts in North American from one of the world’s best car-makers.

“Today was an important day for northeastern Kentucky.”

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