New Jobs Coming to Novelis as Berea Industries Continue Expansion

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Mayor Steve Connelly recently commemorated the expansion of the Hitachi automotive plant in Berea with Hitachi President Hideaki Seki as General Manager Joe Sairenji looked on.

Business is good in Berea as two local manufacturers have either expanded or are in the process of expanding their industrial facilities. In recent months, Novelis and Hitachi have worked on increasing the size of their operations and at least one of the companies is investing in new equipment.

Most recently, aluminum recycling giant Novelis announced plans for a $2.3 million enhancement of their Mayde Road facility. The company produces aluminum ingots out of recycled cans and other material, and it is investing to speed up processing time. Novelis Human Resources Director Monica Johnson noted that by adding a new truck scale and reconfiguring entrances from Mayde Road, the company can increase intake of recyclables.

“We have the [production] capacity, but in order to take advantage of that capacity, we have to increase our flow of goods,” Johnson said. “Right now, where the truckers are entering our property, there’s a bottleneck, so we’re going to expand so we can process more trucks in any given day by having an additional scale.” The change will allow the plant to increase production by 50 million pounds annually, officials said. Novelis will also be investing in additional fork trucks to unload material, and the company will be creating eight new jobs.

Berea City Councilman Jim Davis, who chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, said the expansion at Novelis demonstrates the company’s continuing contribution to Berea’s economy. “By expanding their local facility, Novelis has shown its commitment to Berea and its local workforce. As a good corporate citizen, we are grateful for their continued confidence in the community,” Davis said.

City of Berea Business Development Director Danny Isaacs said the expansion at Novelis appears to be part of a very encouraging trend. “This fits into what’s going on in Berea overall,” Isaacs said. “Novelis is investing in their facility to increase their production capacity along with Hitachi, and these sorts of investments are the reasons Berea was ranked 32nd globally by Site Selection magazine for industrial growth. I’m appreciative that their organization continues to invest in Berea and its people, and we look forward to working with them on other future projects.”

Isaacs noted Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas was another local manufacturer that has made significant investments in its Berea operations. Hitachi expanded production capacity, built a corridor to connect the north and south plants, and added in-house dining options to accommodate its workforce. Human Resources Director Brian Fouch noted the improvements reflect the company’s commitment to both increased efficiency and the region. “This expansion is part of our overall strategy to become more efficient through improved process flow and to provide additional space for our current and future business growth.  In addition, this expansion demonstrates our commitment to Berea and surrounding community,” Fouch said.

According to one recent report, Hitachi added approximately 200 jobs to its operation last year. Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW), meanwhile, reported they are gearing up to serve new clients, according company representative Cameron Sontag.

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly stated the reports of expansion portend good things for the city’s economic fortunes, especially at a time when competition for industrial employers is fierce. “To paraphrase an old aphorism, their investment is the sincerest form of flattery. At a time when every community is competing vigorously to attract     manufacturing plants, Berea is fortunate to have existing companies willing to invest their own money in buildings and operations in ways to increase production and improve efficiency. These strategies will improve the companies’ bottom lines and will likely lead to more employment. It is clear that Berea is good for business, and business is good in Berea,” Connelly said.

 

Brandenburg to Retire as School Resource Officer at Berea Community

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Ray Brandenburg is credited with providing a calm and reassuring presence during his decade-long tenure at Berea Community School.

Whether directing traffic or walking the hallways, School Resource Officer Ray Brandenburg has been a familiar sight at Berea Independent Schools. Now after 45 years in law enforcement, 10 of which have been at Berea Community, Brandenburg will be retiring on July 28.

Brandenburg retired as the chief of the Berea Police Department in 2002, then came back as the school resource officer in the fall of 2006. He said out of all of his work in law enforcement, the last decade has been the most gratifying because of his opportunity to work with kids, some of whom struggled in school. “I still have some of them come to visit me at the house after they’ve graduated. I hope I have made a difference,” Brandenburg said.

As for future plans, Brandenburg said that’s to be decided. “I really haven’t thought about it yet. I’d like to get into something part time, but after I’ve been out of it for a while, I was thinking I might substitute teach. I’ve been thinking about it because I like being around the kids,” he said.

Superintendent Mike Hogg said the district would be delighted if they could get Brandenburg back on campus. “I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who will go home and do nothing. He’s an energetic, active person with a lot to give. So we’re hopeful he’ll consider subbing for us. It’s up to him, but we’d certainly love to have him back in any capacity in which he wants to serve,” Hogg said.

Hogg cited Brandenburg’s calm and reassuring presence among the reasons teachers and staffers consider the former chief more of a school employee rather a police officer. For example, Hogg noted Brandenburg always ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria, and he made it a point to interact with kids when they were between classes.

“He’s been one of us for the last 10 years, and he’s done just a fantastic job developing relationships with kids,” Hogg said. “A lot of the kids he develops relationships with are kids who may not have had positive interactions with the police in the past. So just his ability to connect with them and ask about their lives has been a positive influence. He’s just been a good guy and a good part of our community.”

According to Hogg, Brandenburg is also one who encourages kids who may struggle academically, urging them to keep trying despite the difficulties they may face. For that reason, Hogg credited Brandenburg with perhaps being part of the reason Berea Community High School has a 100% graduation rate. “The more encouragers we have in school, the better, and Ray has certainly been a fantastic encourager of kids. We’ll miss him a lot,” Hogg said.

As for Brandenburg’s successor, Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory said it will likely be Officer Bill Eckler, who is currently the school resource officer at Foley and Madison Southern. In the meantime, Gregory said he will miss Brandenburg, both on a personal level and as a veteran officer in his department. “We’re definitely going to miss him,” Gregory said. “He’s been a mentor to me in my police career, and I know he’s been a mentor to students. He’s done a lot for this community and the school, and he’s just been a great asset.”

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School Resource Officer Ray Brandenburg kept traffic flowing after school at Berea.

FastTrac Graduates Honored for Entrepreneurial Achievement

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From left: City of Berea Business Development Director Danny Isaacs facilitated the FastTrac NewVenture program, and at the recent recognition of participants, he was joined by Carolyn Sexton, Jessa Turner, Justin Dean Burton, Tim Wade, Mayor Steve Connelly, Jonathan Dazo, Gina Dittmeier, Michelle Ramsay, Brian Ramsay, MACED President Peter Hille, Rachel Myers, advisor Jennifer Reis, Susan Watson, advisor Steve Meng, and Berea Tourism Director Kerri Hensley. Four of the graduates, Burton, Wade, Dazo and Dittmeier, attended FastTrac as part of the Gallery 123 Arts Accelerator program.

Last week 10 local entrepreneurs were recognized for completing the Kauffman FastTrac NewVenture program, a 10-week study course that helps prospective business owners turn their ideas into viable commercial enterprises. The series was co-sponsored by the City of Berea, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), the Small Business Development Center at EKU, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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FastTrac graduate Carolyn Sexton views the work of artist and fellow program graduate Jonathan Dazo.  

MACED President Peter Hille and Mayor Steve Connelly addressed the graduates during a brief ceremony, highlighting the important role entrepreneurs play in the economy.

“It’s great to see what you all have accomplished and where it’s going,” Hille said. “The opportunity to create your own job and your own business is still the best way to prosper in America.”

Now in its fourth year in Berea, the FastTrac series mentored participants in developing several different business models, ranging from operating craft businesses, to sewing, technology services, healing through hiking and outdoor activities, and quilting.

Brian Ramsay has developed a business model for making technology available to customers, allowing them to benefit and learn that technology without having to make a large personal investment in equipment. The business would provide access to technology such as a 3-D printer, laser engraver, and other tools that are not yet common in households. Ramsay said starting up his operation could be two years away.

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Brian Ramsay explains the concept for his technology business to Berea City Councilman Steve Caudill, who was on hand last week to congratulate graduates of the FastTrac NewVenture program.

Meanwhile, another would-be entrepreneur in the Ramsay household is Michelle Ramsay, who has had some early success with her quilting business. “It’s for anybody that has memories they want to preserve, said Ramsay, who recalled when her mother sent her a bunch of school T-Shirts. “I realized then what value there is in having a quilt with all of those memories on it, and this is for anybody that has memories they want to preserve.”

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FastTrac NewVenture training enabled Michelle Ramsay to explore ways to turn memories into money with her T-shirt quilting business.

One of the businesses honored last Tuesday, That’s Sew You, actually made a sale at the Acton Folk Center when Mayor Connelly bought a $5 pillow made by Lily Howard, 7. Lily helps her mother Rachel Myers, and grandmother, Susan Watson, both of whom graduated from FastTrac.

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Lily Howard, 7, celebrated her very first sale to Mayor Steve Connelly when she sold him a Star Wars pillow.

 

Connelly said nurturing entrepreneurs and new businesses in Berea is an important facet of building a strong local economy because it keeps money circulating locally, and it can create opportunities for younger Bereans to stay and work in town. In concluding his remarks, Connelly encouraged FastTrac graduates in their next big step forward.  “This is not the end of your journey. This is just the beginning,” Connelly said.

 

Hitachi President Breaks Ground on Berea Plant Expansion

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From left, Hitachi General Manager Joe Sairenji, Hitachi President Hideaki Seki, Mayor Steve Connelly, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Vice President Doug Bowling, and technical advisor/vice president Keiju Nakayama.

Hitachi President and CEO Hideaki Seki was in Berea Friday for the groundbreaking of a plant expansion project. The 100,000 square-foot expansion will connect Hitachi’s north and south industrial plants, allowing for the possible introduction of two new production lines in Berea.

Addressing an audience that included several Hitachi team members and Berea city officials, Mr. Seki said the expansion of the Hitachi plant is just the beginning of the Berea operation’s continued growth. Seki added he is thankful for Hitachi’s opportunity to contribute to Berea’s local economy and quality of life.

Hitachi General Manager Joe Sairenji said connection of the north and south plants will improve production efficiency and communication among team members, while also contributing to continued economic growth in Berea. In closing, Sairenji expressed hope that Hitachi and Berea will continue growing in their mutually beneficial partnership. “Let us grow together,” Sairenji said.

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Following the announcement to expand Hitachi’s operation, Mayor Steve Connelly presented a gift of appreciation to Hitachi President Hideaki Seki as General Manager Joe Sairenji looked on.

Attending the ceremony on behalf of the city was Berea Mayor Steve Connelly, Councilman and Economic Development Committee Chair Jim Davis, City Administrator Randy Stone, and Director of Business Development Danny Issacs. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mayor Connelly stated:

“Berea is honored by Hitachi’s new plant expansion. This investment highlights a long-term commitment to our community and inspires us to seek the next level in our positive community partnership that has already existed for more than 30 years. We will work to ensure our continued mutual commitment to further strengthening our relationship,” Connelly said.

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On Friday, Hitachi team members and Berea city officials celebrated the proposed expansion of the company’s local industrial operation. The venture will connect the north and south plants and possibly allow for the addition of new production lines.  

 

Berea Councilmen See Cause for Hope, Caution at Healing Center Meeting

flags2.jpgWho has the solution to tackle Madison County’s rampant drug epidemic? It’s a question several local officials hope will be answered after a pre-bid conference for the proposed Madison County Healing Center. The event was hosted by Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor last Monday.

The purpose of the meeting was to invite bids to develop a new kind of public/private partnership that will focus on treating the root causes of substance addiction. The call for bids drew approximately 20 prospective vendors, according to reports.

Berea City Council members Bruce Fraley and Jim Davis attended the meeting, after which Fraley expressed his belief that it is time for new ideas for dealing with the community’s drug problem. With drug-related crimes contributing to overcrowding at the Madison County Detention Center, along with projections that the county would otherwise have to build a $50 million, 800-bed facility to accommodate a growing inmate population, Fraley said county officials opted for a different course.

“I think what they came away with is that what we’ve been doing in the past hasn’t worked,” Fraley said. “I don’t think we can incarcerate our way out of this epidemic, and we have to look at new ways to deal with our drug problem. The public is demanding it, and this may be a more economical way to address the problem.”

At the meeting, Deputy Judge/Executive Colleen Chaney stated that managing the issue of drug abuse is a matter of saving tax dollars but also of providing effective treatment and healing. With that in mind, the county is eying a treatment facility that could house approximately 300 clients, in which case many drug offenders who qualify would not be the detention center.

Additionally, the center would feature a vocational component to teach life skills, as well as on-site job training to prepare offenders for a life after drug addiction. Under the current plan, the county would manage construction and security for the facility, which may also serve as office space for some county departments in the future. Meanwhile, a private partner would administer treatment and training programs featured at the healing center. Bids for proposals are due on July 7.

Noting that last week’s meeting was standing-room only, Fraley said there seems to be widespread enthusiasm and interest in trying new strategies. “I do think there is a broad base of support for the concept at all levels, and I think there’s a certain degree of excitement and optimism about the fact that this is something that might help us to be successful in treating this deadly disease,” Fraley said.

However, Fraley said officials first have to wait and see if a plausible plan emerges from the bidding process. Said Fraley: “This is something that could be groundbreaking, but we need to look at the details and the costs. We need to make sure this is workable, and I think this idea may have great potential to be workable.”

Berea City Councilman Jim Davis expressed support for exploring a new approach as well, though he, too, was cautious about its long-term prospects. “I’m willing to look at it to see what they’re proposing. We’ve got to do something, and I’m open to listening to anybody,” Davis said.

Davis also lamented the fact that the drug epidemic has reached a point that the public is looking to the government to solve the problem. He added that if any effort is to succeed, citizens must fully invest in the effort to battle drug abuse, beginning with themselves. “I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think we depend too much on government to do things for us,” Davis said.  “It’s time for people to step up to the plate and stand up for themselves. People need to take responsibility for their actions.”

The winning bid, if any, is expected to be revealed this fall, officials said.

Chief Gregory: Program Works to Steer Berea Kids Away From Drugs, Violence

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Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory fielded questions from the audience following his presentation at a anti-drug forum in Richmond on Friday.

Leaders in government, law enforcement and the media met Friday in Richmond to discuss ways to tackle the growing drug epidemic in Madison County.

Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory was among the keynote speakers, allowing him to report on the success of the city’s Too Good for Drugs program, a national initiative that targets middle schoolers. The program is currently in progress at Farristown Middle School, Foley Middle School and Berea Community.

Too Good for Drugs helps students develop strategies for goal setting, decision making, effective communication and conflict resolution. Perhaps most importantly, it addresses the dangers of various kinds of substance abuse.

To engage parents, the program features take-home assignments designed to help families begin discussions about avoiding substance abuse and violence. Chief Gregory said the city has been pleased with the results of the program so far.

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly was in attendance, along with Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes and Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor.

New City Building May Be Ready in Early September

bldg1The Berea Municipal Police and Fire Safety Building is moving closer toward opening the first week of September. A few snapshots show progress on the project.

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While the back entrance to the old city hall is now unrecognizable, the newly constructed entrance will enable the Berea Police Department to provide better security for the municipal building, as well as additional privacy and security for citizens. The building also includes other important modern safety features, such as a secured garage to transport and process suspects.

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With the construction of the new fire truck bays, the Berea Fire Department will have a new home in the center of town, a development that could potentially lead to a better insurance rating for the city. Additionally, the department will finally get much-needed upgrades in living quarters and on-site training facilities.

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Once the stone fronting goes up on the exterior of the municipal building, along with the white pillars, the structure will combine elements of a modern style while the attached fire department will have the classic appearance of a New York City fire station.

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The building of new offices provided an opportunity to revamp the city’s communication system. New equipment enables the city to reduce paid services from traditional telecommunications providers, potentially saving Berea taxpayers thousands of dollars annually.

At a meeting of the Berea City Council last week, City Administrator Randy Stone said project manager Carroll McGill helped keep the job on track and well within the city’s budget despite some unexpected changes. Once construction was underway, for example, city officials determined the building’s elevator, which is 20 years old, would have to be replaced. Additionally, it was decided the basement had to be refurbished. The combined cost for the changes is $400,000, much less than the city budgeted for such contingencies, Stone told the council.