Braidy Industries executives told lawmakers Tuesday they're confident they can raise the hundreds of millions needed to launch construction of a celebrated aluminum plant near Ashland, Kentucky. The testimony comes amid a rocky leadership shakeup at the company and looming questions about the project's future.
Lawmakers remain publicly optimistic about the project, which is receiving $15 million in state funds, but the mandate for company leaders to appear before committee hints at legislators' growing unease. Braidy and its former CEO, Craig Bouchard, recently underwent a public feud over his ouster — a matter about which company representatives stayed tight-lipped.
The visitors did, however, offer one reason for Bouchard's removal: they say the board wanted to see faster progress on the mill project. The company says it needs to raise $700 million to begin construction, $200 million of which has been committed but remains contingent on the other $500.
Pressed on what happens if they can't meet that goal, interim CEO Tom Modrowski responded, "We try to stay away from hypotheticals. We are laser focused every day we wake up to make sure this facility gets built... We don't think about a plan B."
Reassurances notwithstanding, many lawmakers still have plenty of questions. Sen. Morgan McGarvey rolled off a few following the hearing.
"Are you going to be able to get this facility operational? Are you going to be able to raise the money? Where is the money going to come from? And how can we reasonably go to people in Kentucky and say this plant is going to be built and kept on track?" the Louisville Democrat said.
The proposed aluminum mill has drawn scrutiny since it was revealed that a formerly blacklisted Russian company had planned to take a major stake in the project.
Braidy officials say they have $65 million on hand, the project is shovel ready, and they expect to break ground by the end of 2020.