The Manufacturing Industry: Building Back Fast

Despite turbulence caused by labor and supply chain challenges, the manufacturing industry is experiencing a positive trajectory as it recovers from the pandemic.


Global leaders in manufacturing and logistics—particularly related to the nation’s burgeoning automotive manufacturing industry—are looking to Southern Indiana’s River Ridge Commerce Center to support growing operations and their needs to quickly and efficiently reach customers nationwide.

Over the past few years, there has been rising interest among firms locating or expanding manufacturing, logistics and support facilities for the automotive industry at the River Ridge Commerce Center. To date, more than a half dozen companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their operations—largely as a result of the central location, logistical advantages, strong business climate, and skilled and ready workforce available in the Louisville, KY, and Southern Indiana area. And more are liked headed their way, with recent expansion announcements from nearby automotive giants such as Ford Motor Co. and Toyota. Ford recently announced plans to invest $5.8 billion to establish the BlueOval SK Battery Park in nearby Glendale, KY—a move that will create 5,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Toyota recently announced a $461 million project to expand its plant in Georgetown, KY.

River Ridge
River Ridge Commerce Center (Photo: Courtesy of River Ridge Development Authority)

“We’re seeing significant growth and interest from automotive-related manufacturing and logistics operations,” said Devin Hillsdon-Smith, deputy director of the River Ridge Development Authority, which manages the Commerce Center. “Southern Indiana and Kentucky are becoming hot beds of activity as auto manufacturers and suppliers expand operations in the central United States. We’re excited by the opportunities that are here and coming.”

To serve the growing demand, the River Ridge Development Authority has made significant investments to develop build-ready sites, improve and expand roads in and around the park, expand water infrastructure and add important amenities for businesses.

The River Ridge Commerce Center is a 6,000-acre business park established that still has nearly 4,000 acres available for development, including an 1,100-acre megasite. The Commerce Center, which sits at the crossroads of four major interstates (I-64, I-65, I-71 and I-265), has become one of the largest magnets for economic growth and job creation in Southern Indiana and the Greater Louisville (KY) metro area. Its central location allows firms to reach more than two-thirds of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. The Center is also conveniently located near UPS’s Worldport hub, the center point of the company’s air network providing next-day air service to customers worldwide.

River Ridge currently serves as home to more than 60 companies with over 11,000 on-site workers. The Commerce Center estimated that it produced a total of $2.5 billion in economic output in 2020 and supported more than 17,500 regional jobs. The investments and growth at River Ridge recently earned the RRDA the International Economic Development Council’s Gold Award for Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse.

Among the automotive-related firms now operating at River Ridge are:

  • Autoneum, a developer of acoustic and thermal management technology;
  • Bluegrass Supply, a third-party logistics provider that serves the automotive industry;
  • D.A. Inc., a producer of plastic fastening parts;
  • Denso North America, a firm that provides advanced automotive technology;
  • Idemitsu, a manufacturer and supplier of automotive lubricants;
  • Tenneco, which produces clean-air and ride-performance products.

Meanwhile, River Ridge has become a preferred location for manufacturers in other industries, including food and beverage, aerospace, life-sciences and technology.

In September, Communications Test Design Inc., a leader in the rapidly growing communications, mobility, and consumer devices service industries, announced plans to invest nearly $20 million to locate at River Ridge—a project that will create more than 1,000 jobs. And HempRise is investing more than $70 million to construct an industrial hemp processing and innovation facility to produce more than 10 million liters of CBD and hemp extracts.

Hillsdon-Smith said the new investments indicate the excitement among companies looking to make a home at River Ridge. He added that River Ridge has had more prospects this year than ever before and expects the Ford Motor Co. announcement to drive even more.

“Anytime you get a mega-project like this, everyone in the region should be cheering about it,” Hillsdon-Smith said. “We fully expect that not only River Ridge but the entire region is going to see some pretty significant impacts.”