By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
A major victory was scored in the Tri-County Friday after General Dynamics Information Technology announced they will locate a facility in London.
Word of landing the location was made by Gov. Steve Beshear’s office in Frankfort during the morning. Officials said the the facility is expected to employ up to 1,000 people.
The site is located on Old Whitley Road (Ky. 1006) in the Dennis Karr Air Park, a quarter-mile off U.S. 25 and near the London-Corbin Airport. The building housing the facility is approximately 62,400 square feet, and was once the Micro Devices plant in the 1970s and later known as the Thermo Disc building.
The new facility will provide technical assistance for the technical implementation of the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.
General Dynamics also announced Friday that along with the London location, they would locate a similar facility in Winchester that would employ approximately 300 people.
In addition, word came Friday that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) awarded a contract worth as much as $5.5 million to General Dynamics Information Technology, to continue maintaining USCIS’s production facility in Corbin.
The Corbin location manufactures millions of permanent resident cards — known as “Green Cards” — and Employment Authorization Document cards (see separate story in today’s Times-Tribune).
General Dynamics Information Technology, or GDIT, is a business unit of General Dynamics Corporation, an American defense and aerospace company based in the Washington, D.C. suburb of West Falls Church, Va.
Along with information technology (IT), GDIT provides systems engineering, professional services and simulation and training to customers in the defense, federal civilian government, health, homeland security, intelligence, state and local government and commercial sectors.
To meet the demand for jobs, the Governor’s Office said General Dynamics will be staffing the facility, which they said would be a new call center, with customer service representatives this summer. Applicants are encouraged to apply by visiting the General Dynamics IT career page at www.gdit.com/careers, and entering “Kentucky” as the location on the job search page.
Also, three job fairs for the new GDIT jobs will be held in London today (Saturday) and the next two Saturdays.
The London-Laurel County Industrial Development Authority announced Friday afternoon the first job fair would be today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Somerset Community College’s Laurel Campus, located at 100 University Drive, Building 2, off Ky. 192 in London. Two other job fairs would also take place on Saturday, July 20 and Saturday, July 27, at the same time and location.
For Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Charlie Pennington, the long road was a sweet ride at the end for the agency that put the project together.
“We’ve been waiting on this announcement for a long time. We’ve been working on this since January of last year. These projects take a long period of time and they involve a lot of details. These companies today use ‘site selectors,’ and we had no direct personal contact with General Dynamics,” he said.
Pennington added the site selectors were the first to contact prospective clients. But some other factors also came into play that were in London’s advantage.
“They call you and say they need a building with a certain size and other details. These days, they look for an existing building and ask about the details later,” Pennington said. “We had such a building, the old Micro Devices plant on 1006. It was empty, and we bought the property six or seven years ago. It was leased out to a corporation and was being used as a warehouse. The site selectors looked at the location, the quality of life in the community, and other factors. London’s within an 8-10 hour drive for the majority of this country’s population. A big plus for us was location. We knew about the project, but we didn’t know the client. And we went from there.”
Pennington pointed out the Industrial Development Authority agreed last March to allow the leaseholder at the time, West End Properties, to sub-lease to a client. But it was about 60 days ago when he felt the project was a done deal.
“A lot of negotiations went on, and the details were many. We sold the property in May, and then, we knew it was a reality,” Pennington said. “When workers started coming into the building, people began to get excited. But we couldn’t say anything until the Governor’s Office released the news.”
On Friday afternoon, a lot of activity was going on inside and outside the building, located next door to the Industrial Development Authority. Outside, workers were expanding the parking lot, while inside work was going on by painters and drywall finishers.
Once the news got out Friday, other government and business leaders were happy with the outcome.
“I am thrilled with General Dynamics’ decision to expand their operations here in Kentucky and Laurel County. This multimillion-dollar investment will definitely stimulate the economic growth and development of our area by adding these much-needed 1,000 new jobs. … Laurel County wishes them many years of prosperity and continued growth,” Laurel County Judge-Executive David Westerfield said in a news release.
In the same news release, London Mayor Troy Rudder echoed Westerfield’s comments. “We are extremely excited that General Dynamics is bringing 1,000 jobs to London and Laurel County. These new jobs will have a major impact on the economics of the surrounding area. We thank the state and local officials who worked to make the project possible,” he said.
“Putting a thousand folks to work is great, and it will have a long-range effect on the economy not only in London and Laurel County, but in all of the Tri-County region and Southern Kentucky,” Bruce Carpenter, Executive Director of the Corbin Economic Development Agency and the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said Friday.
Pennington said, “There’s seven counties that border Laurel County. We’ll draw a lot of workers from this region. The first year’s payroll from General Dynamics will be $18 million, and up to $23 million in 10 years. Getting them to come here is tremendous. It’s the best project we’ve had since we got the Walmart DC (Distribution Center) project.”
The Governor’s Office also said Vangent, which was acquired by General Dynamics in October 2011 and has a call center facility on the Cumberland Gap Parkway in Corbin, was preliminarily approved by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for tax incentives up to $11.5 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program.
It added the approval was done to encourage investment and job creation in the London and Tri-County area.
The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
On Friday, officials at the Vangent center in Corbin could not comment on the news of the tax incentive program, or General Dynamics locating to London. It was noticed outside that the former Vangent sign on the front of the building had been changed over to “General Dynamics,” while other signs on the building alerted passers-by that the center was “Now Hiring.”
Which is what will be happening soon at the General Dynamics location in London. Pennington, who along with his wife had just returned from a trip to Lexington earlier in the day, said his cell phone was quite active during the trip up to and from the Bluegrass. Many of the calls were about getting the facility. And those calls were very happy it happened.
He gave credit to the Laurel County Fiscal Court and the City of London, who partnered with the Industrial Development Authority on making the dream a reality, along with many others who played a major role in bringing a thousand jobs to the city and the region.
“We’re awfully proud. It’s an accomplishment we’ve worked hard to get. This is probably one of the best things that could happen in southeastern Kentucky. Absolutely,” said Pennington.