• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

California company likely for Midway Station

A California company that sells educational products plans to open a new distribution center at Midway Station that would employ 262 full-time workers by November of 2017. Lakeshore Learning's plans were announced at the monthly meeting of the Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) Friday, Aug. 26. The previous day, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) gave the company preliminary approval for up to $3.7 million in tax incentives through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments. KEDFA also approved Lakeshore for up to $1.4 million in tax incentives to allow the company to recoup sales and use taxes on construction costs. Lakeshore can also receive no-cost employee recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives from the Kentucky Skills Network. "We're one step closer to landing Lakeshore Learning in Midway. It's a huge deal," said EDA Chairman John Soper, who said the company could also hire 140 seasonal workers. According to documents released by KEDFA, Lakeshore Learning Materials (the official name of the company) will pay $2.15 million for the land and $21.3 million to construct a 500,000 square-feet "fulfillment and distribution" facility. Average wages, including benefits, will be $23 per-hour. A news release from Gov. Matt Bevin's office said the building should be operational by November 2017. "Lakeshore was drawn to Kentucky by its wonderful sense of community and the state's rich history of supporting families, education and businesses like ours," Bo Kaplan, Lakeshore's president and CEO, said in the release. "We truly feel like we've found a home here, and we can't wait to become an active part of the Midway community." Information provided to the governor's office paints an unusual background for the company. Ethelyn Kaplan, a homemaker from Omaha, Neb., founded Lakeshore after moving her family to Oakland, Calif., to open a toy store in 1954. The business soon began focusing on learning materials and launched its first catalog in 1958. Lakeshore began developing its own products in 1988, and today provides teachers and parents with "innovative educational products for children from birth through sixth grade." The company presently employs more than 2,000 across the U.S. and is in its third generation of family ownership. "Over the past 60 years, Lakeshore Learning Materials has established itself as a highly regarded brand in the world of education," Bevin said. "This multi-generational family company is a great fit for the Commonwealth. ." After the announcement, state and local officials had kudos for the company and the people who helped lure it to Midway. "We stand ready to fill the anticipated 262 jobs with dedicated and skilled workers. I appreciate this investment in the Midway community and look forward to a long and profitable relationship with our new industrial partner," state Sen. Julian Carroll said. "Our community deeply cares about education and we know that Lakeshore Learning shares our support for our schools," said state Rep. James Kay. "We are very appreciative of the confidence that they've shown in our workforce and our business community. We also appreciate the Cabinet for Economic Development's assistance in expediting this project and look forward to a long-term corporate relationship with this wonderful, education-based company," said Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. "Again, we open our arms and welcome another family owned business to Woodford County. We want to thank the Kaplan family for their confidence in our community and . the Cabinet for Economic Development, who worked so hard this past year with the Woodford Economic Development Authority to make this day possible," said Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle. After the EDA meeting, Soper said while Lakeshore's plan to come to Midway Station wasn't a done deal, he was confident the company would come. "I feel pretty good about it because, the money issues, we've agreed upon land prices, and these are just the technicalities of when they want the land and how they want the land, and (these are) just minor details and we're working through a purchase agreement on that right now with them," Soper said. Soper, who just began his second four-year term as EDA chairman, spent much of his first term speaking of unnamed industrial clients considering Woodford County that didn't pan out. Since last November, the EDA has helped recruit American Howa Kentucky (54 employees), More Than A Bakery (310 employees) and Lakeshore Learning (up to 400 full and part-time workers) to the county. "Pretty good year," he said with a smile. "Pretty good year. The city councils are working together with us, the county's working together with us - we're focused. When companies come in, we're presenting a unified voice and I think that gives them reassurance that we can get done what we say we're going to get done."

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