Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray joined military officials on Friday to celebrate the opening of a new facility at Bluegrass Station in rural Fayette County that officials said helped save 2,800 Kentucky jobs.
Adjutant General Edward Tonini called the opening of the National Guard's Consequence Management Support Center "an absolute grand slam home-run," saying that elected officials had stepped in to make the expansion possible, protecting jobs, making more jobs likely and safe-guarding a facility that has an annual economic impact of $230 million in Central Kentucky.
"Kentucky will grow as a key component in the support of men and women in uniform as we literally clothe and supply ... all the branches of our military," Tonini said.
The new facility will support the National Guard Bureau's Homeland Defense Mission by providing around-the-clock logistical support to 111 specialized National Guard Homeland Defense Units located around the U.S. It will employ 66 people.
A former Army installation, Bluegrass Station has evolved into an industrial park for military contractors. About 2,800 people work at the facility for aerospace and defense companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp.
Tonini heaped praise on McConnell Friday for helping to negotiate with several federal agencies beginning in 2011 to allow for repurposing portions of Bluegrass Station, calling the senator "a true friend of the National Guard."
Federal deed restrictions had limited the lands to public recreation use only.
"To us, Sen. McConnell is our go-to guy to make sense of senseless situations," Tonini said.
McConnell called the event a "happy occasion," describing the process of getting a green light for the building a "bureaucratic nightmare."
"To put it another way, too many cooks were spoiling the broth," McConnell said.
Gray was applauded for his efforts in working with the state legislature to make sure the facility could open.
"Being here today ... is inspiring in many ways and remarkable," Gray said.