From: By Joe Walker, The Paducah Sun, Kentucky
Published September 2, 2004 12:00 AM

Building's Completion Puts Pressure On CD-Case Maker Infiniti

PADUCAH, Kentucky — Saeed Yousefian admits he never thought Paducahans would meet his deadline of erecting a 100,000-square-foot building in time to start making plastic cases for compact discs, DVDs and other optical media to companies such as RCA and Sony.

During a dedication Wednesday at Industrial Park West, he received the keys to the $4.6 million building, finished in 121 days -- nine days ahead of schedule. To punctuate the feat, City Engineer Rick Murphy lowered the keys in a black bag on a hook swung from one of the building's two 10-ton cranes.

"Saeed said, 'Mayor, you can't build this building fast enough,'" Mayor Bill Paxton said, recalling a conversation with the president of Torrance, Calif.-based Infiniti Media earlier this year. "I said, 'We can, too.'"

Yousefian said the challenge now switches to Infiniti to receive and install $47 million in equipment for the heavily automated factory. Operating as Infiniti Plastic Technologies, the plant should start partial production in October and be at full speed early next year to distribute throughout North America, he said.

"This is the product of a really enormous amount of hard work by a whole lot of people," Yousefian said.

Working with the Kentucky Division of Employment Services, his firm is reviewing more than 1,000 applicants for 20 to 30 initial jobs. Hiring will begin immediately, and there are plans to increase the work force to 100 within five years, Yousefian said.

The work will be highly technical, and most positions will pay more than $15 an hour. Those being sought include electricians with knowledge of robotics and people with expertise in accounting, warehousing and material handling, Yousefian said.

"I hope we are a catalyst and springboard for other industry to come to this park," said Kelly Oetjen of Paducah, who will manage the plant. "One reason I took this job is to help the community bring businesses into our factory to show them what we're capable of doing."

The building was engineered by Farris, McIntosh and Tremper and erected by lead contractor A&K Construction. A&K, which faced a $5,000 penalty for each day beyond the finish deadline, was awarded an $18,000 bonus for completing the project early. The firm will give $10,000 of the money to help Paducah Cooperative Ministry pay for its new home in the former American Legion building, A&K President Kenny Hunt said.

To start work last spring, A&K hauled tons of lime to the site to stabilize the soggy soil to pour a foundation, and had two to three times as many workers as normal, Hunt said. United Structures of America, A&K's distributor, designed and fabricated the metal sections in record time, battling steel costs that have soared 60 percent this year, he said.

"They pretty much pushed everything aside and jumped on it," Hunt said. "Normally, it would take another 60 days to put up a building like this."

Construction involved 25 to 30 more tradesmen than usual, many working on Saturdays, he said.

Infiniti is the first occupant of the park from outside the Paducah area. Its incentive package included nearly 12 acres of donated land, plus eight acres if the factory expands. The building was designed for the possibility of doubling in size toward the west. Yousefian said earlier that growth in the industry is strong -- averaging 25 percent per year -- and if business remains good, a second phase of construction could double the plant size in five years.

The Paducah-McCracken County Industrial Park Authority owns the building and is leasing it to Infiniti over 20 years. The city and county are paying nearly $1 million for the first three years of the lease, with Infiniti picking up the costs thereafter. If the firm meets certain financial obligations, it will own the building after 20 years or may opt to buy it in the meantime.

Infiniti also qualifies for $450,000 to $1 million in state tax incentives, depending on which package it picks, said Wayne Sterling, president of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council.

The company chose Kentucky over offers from California, Alabama, Illinois, Nevada and the Carolinas, among others. Yousefian, who was introduced to local leaders by Tennessee Valley Authority officials, said a key to settling the deal was an impromptu dinner of Southern corn bread and white beans cooked by Judge-Executive Danny Orazine's wife, Rudell.

Source: The Paducah Sun, Kentucky

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