LION First Responder PPE Inc., a manufacturer of firefighter garments and other first responder equipment and apparel, will reopen its facility in Lee County, Kentucky. The $850,000 project is expected to create 75 full-time jobs.
LION plans to reopen at 1080 Center Street off Fairgrounds Ridge Road in Beattyville, the same 50,000-square-foot facility where the company manufactured firefighter protective garment outer shells for 30 years until its closure in 2010. The Beattyville location joins LION’s existing manufacturing location in West Liberty and a distribution and manufacturing facility in Hazel Green. The company currently employs 407 people in Kentucky.
“We are very excited to bring back apparel manufacturing jobs to Beattyville,” said Steve Schwartz, CEO at LION. “We currently have over 20 employees that we bus to West Liberty each day, so we are excited to offer them the opportunity to work closer to home should they choose to do so. We know the talent located in this community is uniquely qualified to create the highest quality, hand-crafted technical garments that our firefighters deserve and expect.”
The new operation will produce thermal liners, the innermost layer of firefighter protective garments. The company’s investment will accommodate facility renovations and new sewing and seam sealing equipment. Through the project, LION also will establish an apprenticeship program with the Lee County Area Technology Center. Company leaders anticipate the facility will begin operation by October.
“Over the last two years, we have aggressively invested to expand our manufacturing capacity, but it has not been enough to meet strong demand for our products when combined with the disruptions we have seen in both the supply chain and labor markets over the past 18 months,” added Mark Smith, president of LION Americas. “The Beattyville facility is a great complement to our current efforts and reaffirms our commitment to improve delivery times to meet our customers’ expectations. We understand there is still much work to be done, but we are appreciative of the support and patience we continue to see with our distribution and fire department partners. When the Beattyville plant is fully operational, this move will provide LION with the largest capacity for manufacturing firefighter turnout gear in our industry.”
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 15-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $850,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $850,000 and annual targets of creation and maintenance of 75 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years and paying an average hourly wage of $19.60 including benefits across those jobs.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments. In addition, LION can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network.
“As we work to build a better future for families across the commonwealth, the return of LION First Responder PPE to Beattyville, a community that has faced more than its share of difficulties over the past year, is a tremendous boost to the economy in Lee County and Eastern Kentucky,” Governor Andy Beshear said. “LION long has been an important employer throughout the region, currently creating jobs for over 400 people in our state. Their decision to locate this new venture in their former facility in Beattyville highlights the quality of the region’s workforce. LION’s commitment to Kentucky is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to seeing the company’s continued growth in the commonwealth.”
Founded in 1898 and headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, LION manufactures a wide range of first responder apparel and equipment, including fire service garments and public safety personal protective equipment. Services include PPE cleaning, inspection and repair. The company also produces structures and equipment used in fire safety training. LION currently employs 940 people companywide with additional manufacturing operations in Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Toronto.
“One East Kentucky is always ready to provide guidance to additional communities and companies in the greater Eastern Kentucky region, because our mission is all about furthering job creation,” noted Chuck Sexton, president and CEO of One East Kentucky. “This project will be a great fit for LION, as well as our friends in Lee County. We look forward to seeing their progress over the coming years.”