Elizabethtown, KY – Details from a new long-term economic impact study commissioned by the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) were shared during the Chamber’s monthly Membership Luncheon on Wednesday afternoon. The details were shared by guest speaker Luke Schmidt, whose Louisville-based consulting firm, L.B. Schmidt & Associates conducted the study in collaboration with Dr. Paul Coomes, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Louisville.
HCCC announced last year that a long-term economic impact study would be commissioned to better understand the impact of major recent economic developments in the region, such as the BlueOval SK Battery Park, which is slated to bring 5,000 new jobs to the area.
During his presentation Wednesday, Schmidt shared key details from the study pertaining to the scope of the BlueOval SK project, the project’s economic impact on the region, projected population growth in the region, housing projections, school enrollment increase projections and healthcare sector projections. Some key findings shared during the meeting include:
- Anticipated is a population surge of 22,380 in Hardin County, comprising an increase of 1,424 in the under-five age bracket, 3,128 among ages five to 14, 2,924 for the 15 to 24 demographic, 2,956 within the 25 to 34 group, and 11,949 across other age segments. With this growth, Hardin County is expected to remain the sixth most populous county, while Elizabethtown may become the fifth largest city in Kentucky.
- Each billion dollars of construction expenditures for the project will support around 11,600 total job-years in the region, while each billion dollars of equipment expenditures will support around 823 total job-years in the region. The plant will support 8,016 total jobs in the region, representing an employment multiplier of 1.603. By the end of 2026, the expected direct plant payroll will be $265 million. The 2026 – 2035 expected direct payroll (including fringe benefits) is expected to be $3.63 billion.
- Based on population projections, there is expected to be a need for 8,811 new housing units in Hardin County.
- A total of 3,901 new K-12 students are expected in Hardin County, based on population projections.
- In the healthcare sector, there will be a projected need for 75 new hospital beds, 389 new hospital jobs and 380 new ambulatory care jobs.
- The battery park represents the single largest new economic development project in Kentucky’s history, and will be the 10th largest manufacturing site in the world in terms of square footage. As a standalone battery plant, BlueOval SK will be the largest EV electric battery plant in the world in terms of investment, physical size, jobs created and manufacturing capacity.
- In terms of employment, by 2026, BlueOval SK will be one of the five largest manufacturing sites in Kentucky based on current employment numbers and the announced BlueOval employment number. Hardin County will be home to two of the 10 largest manufacturers in Kentucky, and all but one of the top 10 manufacturers in the state are located along the I-65 Corridor.
- The construction phase, which began last year and is expected to be completed in 2024, will include a projected 720 local workers, up to 2,880 traveling workers and up to a total of 3,500 workers during the peak of construction, which is anticipated to be in October. Total construction payroll will be $1.6 billion and $75 million will be invested in local materials/services. A total of 2,800 housing units will be needed for traveling workers and 300 units will be needed for management personnel. The total construction investment is $5.8 billion, with an average of 4,500 construction jobs over three years with an average annual pay of $50,000.
- During the equipment installation portion of the project, which is expected to take place from Q3 2023 through Q4 2025, 500 to 1,000 South Korean technicians are expected to be on-site. These technicians are temporary workers who are on a two-year visa. They will install, calibrate and train BlueOval SK workers on how to run and maintain the equipment.
- The plant will begin battery production by the end of 2024 with 2,500 full-time employees, and by the end 2025, there are expected to be 5,000 full-time employees with an average annual pay of $53,000 ($73,000 with fringe benefits). The plant will also attract several new suppliers and support businesses to Hardin County.
“This study underscores how every facet of a community – from population growth to housing demands, employment trends and healthcare needs – can be shaped by large scale economic developments like BlueOval SK,” Schmidt said.
The study’s elements comprised an exploration of the MSA baseline, comparative analysis of peer MSAs, an assessment of the impact of the BlueOval SK, an overview of competitive communities, as well as examinations of parkway conversions to interstate highway standards and MSA expansion. The research further extended to encompass on-site visits and investigations of analogous “boom towns,” including Georgetown, Kentucky; Meridian, Idaho; Reno, Nevada; and Round Rock, Texas. The study’s comprehensive nature also involved active engagement with key stakeholders, incorporating pre and post-SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, online surveys and interviews.
The commissioning of the study was made possible through the support of members of HCCC’s President’s Circle, along with other area businesses and organizations, including Baptist Health Hardin, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, The Land Store, Lightsource bp, Swope Family of Dealerships, South Central Bank, WesBanco, West Point Bank, Kinetic by Windstream, the Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau, Heartland Communications Consultants, PNC, The Cecilian Bank and Abound Credit Union.
“As an organization that seeks to foster a thriving and collaborative business community in Hardin County, we at the Chamber believe it is imperative to have a data-driven understanding of the economic factors that have and will arise with the arrival of BlueOval SK,” said Margy Poorman, President and CEO of HCCC. “It was exciting for attendees to learn some of these astounding facts and figures from Luke today as he shared details of the study from the podium.”
Schmidt founded L.B. Schmidt & Associates in 2004 with a focus on economic development, public affairs and strategic planning. The firm has successfully developed, implemented and managed projects across the U.S. and in Europe.
Once completely finalized, the study will be available for download on HCCC’s website, hardinchamber.com.
August 9 Powerpoint Presentation can be downloaded HERE