When President Donald J. Trump speaks – or even tweets – he does so with a purpose.
Sometimes it’s to make a point and sometimes it’s to make somebody mad.
But it’s always, not just sometimes, with purpose.
So when President Trump mentioned Braidy Industries and Ashland, Kentucky on Saturday night toward the end of his campaign rally on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, it was, well, surprising.
President Trump knows about Braidy Industries? Well, yes, he does. He and Sen. Mitch McConnell talk, and that might be why. But still …
Here’s what President Trump said, in case you missed it:
“Thanks to our job creation and economic (policies), Braidy Industries recently broke ground on a billion dollar aluminum mill that will create up to 1,500 jobs right next to Ashand, Kentucky. You know where we're talking about?"
Yes, Mr. President, we know Ashland but didn’t know you did.
Apparently Braidy Industries has friends in high places. Maybe even the highest place of all.
I mean, seriously, if President Trump thought enough to bring up Braidy Industries in one of his campaign speeches while talking about nationwide economic growth and jobs, jobs and jobs, well, that’s got to be good.
Trump’s statement came with a little bit of exaggeration (I’m sure you’re surprised). The mill won’t hire 1,500 – more like 600 – but when it’s built, the spinoff companies will easily cover what he suggested, at least according to what Braidy officials have told us in the past. There’s always a way to look at numbers.
How much is it worth to Braidy Industries to have its name mentioned in a positive way by the president of the United States? I’m not sure there’s a number that can be attached to that statement. Braidy is in the market for investors – not to mention needing a $1 billion loan – but if President Trump is trumpeting the cause, that’s sure to draw some interest. You can love or hate our president, but he wields some incredible power from his chair in the Oval Office and even from his Twitter account.
Facebook photos of Braidy CEO Craig T. Bouchard and COO Blaine Holt in front of the White House must not be window dressing. Maybe there have been meetings and conversations with some of those people in high places.
Bouchard has a plan and it’s to make Ashland Great Again and he wants to do it with this aluminum plant that most of northeastern Kentucky has put their hopes and dreams in since Braidy arrived on the scene in the spring of 2017. He’s sold it well to area and state politicians, who laid out the welcome mat for the kind of industry – and high-paying jobs – being promised.
But in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, company officials showed they hadn’t raised enough to complete construction. It scared the faithful and caused a ripple of panic, at least for a few days. But Bouchard and others have reassured everyone, saying everything is right where they thought it would be. It’s business as usual for them and, if anything, they are ahead of schedule.
The need for these kind of jobs - jobs that pay $70,000 a year - are painfully obvious to an area without much positive economic news for decades. It has been mostly heartbreaking news of layoffs and plant closures, or companies even moving away. Of those 600 available jobs, the company has received 7,000 applications, Bouchard said.
In an interview last week with the Associated Press, Bouchard said the pressure of making this happen weighs heavily on him.
“I wake up literally every single morning with 10,000 families riding on my shoulders and it’s the most important thing in my life, my career,” he said.
Not that Bouchard needs any more pressure, but when the president of the United States mentions your company in a campaign rally, that may be more like 10,000 elephants on his shoulders.
Then again, most of what Trump has touched economically since he became president has had Golden Goose results. If he has Braidy Industries on his mind, and even his lips, well, how can that be anything but good news?
Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org