BY ERIC WALKER EWALKER@MAYFIELD-MESSENGER.COM
Jun 16, 2020
A developing manufacturer of ceramic lining for melting furnaces has announced it will establish its first U.S. production facility in Mayfield by the end of 2020.
According to a news release from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, PRCO America will manufacture specialized refractory bricks for the steel industry with a near $5.5 million investment that is anticipated to create up to 32 full-time positions.
“The opportunity to announce PRCO America’s first U.S. facility in west Kentucky comes at a welcome time as we reopen businesses, reinvigorate the economy across the commonwealth and continue to create good-paying jobs for Kentuckians,” Gov. Beshear said in the release. “Kentucky’s many attractive qualities – including our workforce and, for this development, our proximity to U.S. steel mills – will continue attracting jobs and investment as we move forward.”
Bill Porter, national sales manager for U.S. and Canada, said the attractiveness of west Kentucky, and Mayfield and Graves County in particular, was the proximity to both Mississippi and Ohio rivers for access to barge traffic and needed raw materials, as well as steel and auto industry customers based in Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas.
“My competition is in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, so by locating in Kentucky, we’re closer to the new steel plants that are going to be the more efficient ones and more productive ones,” Porter said Tuesday.
According to Porter, PRCO America will produce resin-bonded magnesia-graphite refractory bricks, which are ceramics that withstand as much as 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The bricks will line melting furnaces that melt ore, scrap or iron, as well as transfer vessels. And even though the bricks are able to withstand high heat, they are also replaceable items.
PRCO America, which was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008, is looking at closing a deal to move into the current Youngblood Excavating/Contracting and KYFAB location off U.S. 45 north of Mayfield. With the timeline for equipment, which will feature hydraulic presses and high-intensity mixers, Porter said they are looking at starting production in December.
Ryan Drane, president of Graves County Economic Development, credited a team effort and thanked the property’s owner, Brad Youngblood.
“I’m proud of how the teams at PRCO, Graves County and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development were able to work together to bring new jobs and opportunities to our community despite the many challenges we have all faced in 2020,” Drane said. “Thank you to all of our partners who were able to provide timely information during times of uncertainty and to Mr. Youngblood for working with the company to make the deal happen. Most of all, I would like to thank PRCO for their investment and we would like to formally welcome them to our community.”
Youngblood will build a new facility in Grace Commercial Park.
Along with the approximately 35,000-square-foot building in Hickory, the company will also use three other buildings on site for various purposes, including office space. The plant also will source a unique raw material, making its products vital in producing cleaner-quality steel.
“We expect to fill this plant to full capacity quickly,” Ricky Wang, president of PRCO America, was quoted in the release. “Refractory made using this new raw material is already showing a 15% to 25% or greater improvement in performance for our customers in products we imported into the USA to qualify the new formulations in American steel producing operations.”
PRCO America imports a full line of refractories for iron and steel making and is a division of Puyang Refractories Group Company. Its customers include mini-mill and integrated steel producers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
In April, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval for a 15-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $550,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $5.49 million and annual targets of creating and maintaining 32 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years and paying an average hourly wage of $24.50 including benefits across those jobs.
The announcement brought excitement from local and state leaders. “We are so excited to welcome PRCO America to Mayfield and look forward to their growth within our community,” Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan said.
Graves County Judge-Executive Jesse Perry said the county’s distribution and logistics advantages as a draw for companies.
“PRCO America’s plan to invest and create jobs is a meaningful win for Graves County and I’m grateful to all involved,” he said. “This continues a trend of manufacturers locating here for our workforce and location benefits. I look forward to our county being part of PRCO’s long-term success.”
State Rep. Richard Heath said the company’s jobs and investment would bring an additional economic boost to the region.
“The need for skilled trade workers is growing at a rapid pace, which is why Kentucky needs globally known companies like PRCO America to strengthen our economy and workforce,” Heath said. “PRCO America’s investment will enhance Graves County and surrounding cities by providing higher-paying jobs and opportunities for our citizens.”
“I would like to extend my appreciation to PRCO America Inc. for choosing to invest in West Kentucky’s economy and workforce,” added State Sen. Stan Humphries. “With the Mississippi River close by, our region is a centralized hub for the transport of steel and other industrial production materials. I look forward to new jobs and new opportunities for Graves County and the surrounding area.”
“Our track record of business growth and development continues to be very strong here in Mayfield and Graves County. Specifically with this project, our recent national rankings were noted by PRCO America as an important factor in their decision-making process,” Drane added. “Successful businesses want to be in successful communities and we are delighted that PRCO America chose to partner with us and to continue creating a thriving community with a winning culture.”