Japanese auto manufacturer expanding here

It's making a move to $2.4 million property

By Kevin Wheatley Published:

A Japanese automated welding system manufacturer will expand operations here after buying the former R.J. Industries property for $2.4 million.

Aska Corporation, whose clients are in the Japanese auto industry, was set to close on the 156,000-square-foot building on Chenault Road at 1 p.m. today, Kim Smith, interim executive director of the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation, said during KCDC’s meeting Tuesday. Aska is currently in a 20,000-square-foot building in the industrial park off Duncan Road, not far from its future home.

The company has looked at the property since April, Smith said, and signed a purchase and sale agreement option in early August.

Travis Young, sales manager at Aska, said the company plans to expand its sales base and add machining capabilities.

It’s unclear how many jobs that expansion would create, but Young said the company would need to buy equipment and hire machinists, welders and possibly others. He estimated the company would add three to five jobs initially.

Aska’s purchase caps a busy month for KCDC in terms of industrial prospects. Six companies have asked about available properties in the past month, and two Japanese auto manufacturers visited two 60,000-square-foot buildings on Fortune Drive, formerly owned by Tierney Storage LLC, Smith said.

One building is just manufacturing space with a $2.4 million asking price, according to KCDC’s website. The other has less room for manufacturing, but it includes a 6,000-square-foot, air-conditioned office for a $3.2 million price tag, the website listing says.

Both prospective buyers would like to move by June 2013, according to Smith.

“We’ve showed them the buildings, and so far they’re really impressed with that, so we’re hoping that will come to fruition,” she said.

Smith declined to name the Japanese companies, citing confidentiality in pending industrial park deals.

Frankfort’s location between two major auto assembly plants – Toyota in Georgetown and Ford in Louisville – is attractive to manufacturers and suppliers looking to move, Smith said.

Young said Frankfort is geographically centered between major Japanese automakers, giving Aska access to customers in Ohio, Alabama, Indiana and elsewhere.

“Location wise, it’s pretty well centered, and there’s also a strong supplier base and contractor base here in the area due to the presence of (Toyota) in Georgetown,” Young said.

The recession, which left some American auto companies facing bankruptcy and accepting a federal bailout, caused manufacturers like R.J. Industries and Bendix to shutter factories here. The two companies eliminated about 175 jobs.

Smith sees the increasing interest in local industrial properties as a “very promising” movement. Some have looked at vacant buildings while others have asked about available land, she said.

“With fall, you think things might start slowing down for the holidays, but if anything, it’s picked up,” Smith said.

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