Two months after the approval of state tax incentives disclosed an expansion, Big Ass Fans revealed Tuesday its plans to build a new headquarters in Lexington and hire 300 more employees.
"The ability to attract the best and the brightest will continue to be key to our success," CEO Carey Smith told those assembled at a groundbreaking ceremony.
Construction will begin shortly on the two-phase project intended to consolidate all of the fan company's Lexington operations along Jaggie Fox Way, where its research and development center is.
The company bought the 32 acres in 2009 and will first add an 80,000-square-foot building for general use and storage, special projects manager Nick Williams said. Gray Construction has been hired for the work, Williams said. The company hopes to have employees moving in by the second week of February.
The second phase will include construction of a 240,000-square-foot building intended to consolidate all operations in one place.
Today, the company is spread out across Lexington, with 99,000 square feet at its headquarters on Merchant Street off Leestown Road, 33,000 square feet on Winchester Road and 44,000 square feet at the research and development center.
A timetable hasn't been established for completion of the second phase of the project, Williams said.
The company is growing rapidly because it chose to invest during the recession rather than pull back like many others, Smith said.
"During the recession, we kept people employed. We didn't lay anyone off," he said. The company also kept investing in advertising and in research and development, he said.
Big Ass Fans also recently bought a company and has incorporated its technology to add a residential fan model to its array of industrial fans known for large diameters, reflected in the company's name.
Scott Nielsen, director of human resources, said the new employees hired in the coming years will be across many areas, with the bulk in sales and production.
"We're looking for people who are smart, willing to work hard and take initiative," he said.
In March, state officials approved tax incentives for the expansion, which is required to create 150 employees within six years. The jobs would pay an average hourly wage of $22, including benefits.
"Manufacturing may not be as sexy as software development, but the wages we pay go to a much broader spectrum of the community," Smith said.
The first of the new buildings is expected to cost $8 million, according to state tax incentive documents. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $2 million in tax incentives. In general, when a company accepts the tax incentive, it can keep that amount of money, which it would otherwise pay in taxes, assuming it fulfills the terms of the deal.
The company also was approved for $210,000 in additional incentives under a different program.
"This is the type of entrepreneurs we like to grow here," Commerce Lexington CEO Bob Quick said. "Without companies like this, our economy wouldn't be as vibrant as it is, especially in tough times like today."
And the quirky name of the company didn't go unmentioned at Tuesday's groundbreaking.
"Yes, your governor just said the A-word," Gov. Steve Beshear told the crowd.
"I'm so pleased that the governor said 'Big Ass Fans,'" Smith said later upon taking the microphone.