MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries (SEKRI) announced a new facility that is expected to bring up to 100 jobs to Bell County.
Tuesday, SEKRI said in a news release that the new manufacturing facility will be located in Middlesboro. Plans are underway for the facility to open by the end of February 2019.
“We currently have a team of engineers and mechanics gearing up for operations,” SEKRI Executive Director Norm Bradley said. “During this process, we want to begin hiring our workforce."
To fill the new job positions, SEKRI is hosting a job fair at the Middlesboro City Hall Council Chambers next week.
SEKRI spokesperson Stan Baker said, “The most amazing thing that SEKRI offers is employment opportunities to people who fall into the disability spectrum.”
Bradley says that the biggest mission for the new factory is to help employ people in the rural areas like Middlesboro, especially those with disabilities, who have an even bigger struggle finding jobs.
He says SEKRI staff have looked into putting a factory in Middlesboro for a while, because of the need they can fill.
""We go into areas, uh, more rural areas that don't offer a lot of employment opportunities to start with, and have practically no opportunities for people with disabilities. Seventy-five percent of all of our folks that work on our products have some kind of significant disability," says Bradley.
SEKRI primarily makes clothing and gear for the U.S. military. It is a non-profit organization that began in 1971 to employ people most would consider unemployable. This will be the organization's seventh facility.
“517,000 direct labor hours of work were completed by our disabled workforce last year,” Bradley said. “We did that with less than 1% rejected product. The difference between our workforce and your standard American workforce is just one simple thing, our employees choose to come to work. Many get a disability check and qualify for enough government subsidized programs to meet most of their basic needs. They can stay home. They choose not to. They choose to make their lives better and to serve their communities through gainful employment."
Mayor Rick Nelson says he had heard rumors about the factory possibly coming in and was happy to the confirmation.
“As the new mayor coming in, I had nothing to do with this creation of these jobs but I appreciate all the hard work that went into this endeavor,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson said. "That said, we will be a great partner to SEKRI to make sure those jobs stay in our area.”
Nelson says he hopes many will come out on Tuesday to try and fill the new positions, and opportunities that will soon be available.
"It helps the city of course with the occupational tax. It gives the families hope and a new income. I just think it's a win, win, win," says Nelson.
The job fair will be on Tuesday, January 15th, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.