Friday July 1st, 2022 7:06PM

Owners of candle factory damaged in tornado plan expansion

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

The company that operated a Kentucky candle factory leveled by a deadly winter tornado plans to ramp up production with a $33 million investment at a nearby plant, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday.

Mayfield Consumer Products LLC, a maker of candles and other home fragrance products, plans to employ more than 500 people full time in the next five years at its factory in Hickory as it builds back production. The company's plant in Mayfield took a direct hit from the tornado that devastated the town last December.

Several workers died at the factory — among the 81 people who died in Kentucky as the storms tore through parts of western Kentucky. Thousands left homeless found shelter with relatives and friends, or in emergency facilities, hotels and state parks.

.Beshear, a Democrat, touted the economic development news Thursday without mentioning workplace citations leveled against the company. The announcement comes just weeks after state officials issued citations against the company for alleged violations of Kentucky's occupational safety and health laws. The company faces $21,000 in potential fines for three alleged violations related to the tornado, according to state Labor Cabinet documents obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday through an open records request.

Asked later Thursday about the citations, the governor's office didn't immediately comment.

The company also is defending itself against a lawsuit claiming it showed “flagrant indifference” by refusing to allow employees to go home early as the storm approached. Company officials did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment about the citations.

Beshear said more job announcements will be forthcoming as the Mayfield region continues to dig out from massive tornado damage.

“This expansion will re-establish the company’s employment base in the region and adds to the overall rebuilding efforts,” the governor said at his weekly news conference.

The governor has made repeated trips to western Kentucky in support of recovery efforts. He was on hand recently when three families were handed keys to new homes in Mayfield — the first houses to be fully constructed there since the tornado.

Mayfield Consumer Products had already started construction on one expansion at its location in the Hickory industrial park. It now plans another bigger expansion that will consolidate its operations following the destruction of its Mayfield plant. Hickory is about 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) from Mayfield. The total investment planned is $33.3 million, the governor's office said.

Company founder Mary Propes said the expansion shows the company's “resolve to rebuild here and to play a central role in helping to restore the place we call home.”

"This community has a bright future, and we are committed to being a big part of that progress,” she said in a news release issued by the governor's office.

The company currently employs 160 people in western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the state recently said the company committed three violations deemed “serious” in connection with the tornado, according to the Labor Cabinet documents.

The citations claim the company failed to keep an exit route hallway “free and unobstructed,” did not maintain an alarm system to warn employees of fire or other emergencies and failed to review an emergency action plan with each employee. Each alleged violation carries a proposed $7,000 fine.

The company had 15 days — excluding weekends — to contest the citations. A Labor Cabinet spokeswoman said she didn't immediately know if the company had appealed.

An attorney involved in the storm-related litigation blasted the company for the citations.

“Those of us representing the displaced former employees in the tornado certainly hope that the new facilities comply with state safety laws, given that that company was slapped with serious violations," attorney Amos Jones said by phone Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed in state court days after the tornado but has since been moved to federal court, based on a motion filed by the defendants, Jones said. The plaintiffs are attempting to have the suit returned to state court, he said.

“Either way, the defendants can’t run from what they did,” Jones said.,

The suit accuses Mayfield Consumer Products of violating Kentucky workplace standards by keeping its staff at work despite the danger of death and injury. The suit claims that workers were threatened with termination if they left in the hours before the tornado hit. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

A company spokesman said last December that employees were free to leave anytime, and he denied that they would have faced retribution if they did. A company executive said then that the company was retaining “an independent expert team” to review the actions of managers and employees leading up to when the tornado struck the factory. The executive said the company was confident that its “team leaders acted entirely appropriately and were, in fact, heroic in their efforts to shelter our employees.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online President, White House, advisers News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Owners of candle factory damaged in tornado plan expansion
The company that operated a Kentucky candle factory leveled by a deadly tornado last winter is planning to ramp up production
7:19PM ( 6 minutes ago )
After Supreme Court gun decision, what’s next?
The Supreme Court issued its biggest gun rights ruling in more than a decade Thursday
7:16PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Rory McIlroy, JT Poston share Travelers lead at 8-under 62
Rory McIlroy fought off a sinus bug to shoot an 8-under 62 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead with J
7:11PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
LGBTQ students would get new protections under Biden plan
The rights of LGBTQ students would become enshrined in federal law and victims of campus sexual assault would gain new protections under new rules proposed by the Biden administration
6:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
Uvalde victim's sister pleads for tougher gun laws in Texas
The sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school shooting rampage has tearfully pleaded with Texas lawmakers to pass tougher gun laws and questioned why so many security measures failed
6:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
Rural Nevada county postpones accepting primary vote results
Elected officials in a rural Nevada county have decided to postpone until Friday certifying results of the 317 votes cast in their jurisdiction during the state’s June 14 primary election
5:58PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Gun bill on road to passage as Senate overcomes GOP delays
The Senate has pushed a bipartisan gun violence bill to the brink of passage
6:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
Colombia: president-elect looks to build governing coalition
President-elect Gustavo Petro, who has vowed to lift up Colombia’s poor and disenfranchised, has won the support of an influential party of the establishment as he tries to build a majority coalition in Congress
5:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
Settlement would forgive $6B for defrauded college students
The Biden administration has agreed to cancel $6 billion in student loans for about 200,000 former students who say they were defrauded by their colleges
4:31PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
1/6 panel to hear of Trump's pressure on Justice Department
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced down a relentless pressure campaign from then-President Donald Trump over the 2020 election results
2:01PM ( 5 hours ago )
1/6 panel to hear of Trump's pressure on Justice Dept.
The Jan. 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced down a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the presidential election results
12:08AM ( 19 hours ago )
‘Great resignation’ reaches White House with staff turnover
Not even the White House is immune from the economic trend that's been called the "great resignation” as employers struggle to fill vacancies and workers jump to new jobs at record rates
8:39PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Online President, White House, advisers News
Fix the Hog: Harley, Westinghouse ordered to fix warranties
Federal regulators have accused Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse of imposing illegal warranty terms on customers and ordered them to fix their warranties and ensure that their dealers compete fairly with independent repair-makers
5:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Instagram tests using AI, other tools for age verification
Instagram is testing new ways to verify the age of people using its service, including a face-scanning artificial intelligence tool, having mutual friends verify their age or uploading an ID
3:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
The AP Interview: Estonian PM says Russia not weary of war
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has told The Associated Press that the West shouldn't underestimate Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine and that President Vladimir Putin's forces are in it for the long haul
3:51PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Wall Street's bubble may be gone, but stocks can still fall
This year's sell-off for Wall Street means stocks no longer look to be in a dangerously overvalued bubble, as some critics had warned
9:45AM ( 9 hours ago )
NHL, players union, alumni association team up for NFT deal
The NHL, NHL Players' Association and NHL Alumni Association are teaming up to get hockey into the NFT marketplace
9:35AM ( 9 hours ago )
Exec returns to Toyota as adviser after '15 arrest in Japan
An American executive who resigned from Toyota after being arrested in Japan in 2015 on suspicion of drug law violations has returned to the Japanese automaker
6:33AM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Rory McIlroy, JT Poston share Travelers lead at 8-under 62
Rory McIlroy fought off a sinus bug to shoot an 8-under 62 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead with J
7:11PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Feds search Trump-era official's home, subpoena GOP leaders
Federal agents have searched the Virginia home of a Trump-era Justice Department official who championed efforts by President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election
7:11PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Hearing: Trump told Justice Dept. to call election 'corrupt'
Former top Justice Department officials have testified to the Jan. 6 committee that President Donald Trump hounded the department to pursue his false election fraud claims
6:59PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Takeaways: Trump risked provoking 'constitutional crisis'
The House Jan. 6 committee used its hearing Thursday to show how Donald Trump's pressure on the  Justice Department could have led to a “constitutional crisis” after the 2020 election
6:45PM ( 40 minutes ago )
EXPLAINER: What led to priests being killed in Mexico?
Two Jesuit priests and a tour guide murdered in Mexico’s Sierra Tarahumara this week are the latest in a long line of activists, reporters, travelers and local residents who have been threatened or killed by criminal gangs that dominate the region
6:39PM ( 46 minutes ago )