Bell County celebrates opening of SEKRI in Middlesboro

Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries, known as SEKRI, opened their seventh location in Middlesboro and celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Monday.

The company specializes in products such as back-packable shelter systems that are used in the military, and the items are so in demand that the back order is currently at 30,000 items.

At the ribbon cutting on Monday, several state and local government officials were in attendance supporting the company that is already making an impact on the community. Also there to welcome SEKRI was Kentucky’s 5th District Representative, Hal Rogers.

“This county has been so critical in my plans, thoughts and ambitions, and I came here to thank you” Rogers said. “I am especially thrilled with the jobs, and that is what we have needed really the most here.”

Rogers pointed out that our region is going through some severe problems.

“We are losing this big economy that we had with coal,” he said. “We are all trying to reimagine our future and recreate a whole economy and you have been a big part of that.”

He applauded the leaders of SEKRI for planting their roots in southern and eastern Kentucky.

“(You are) giving our people the opportunity to make a living that has been turned away by other companies due to a disability or substance abuse disorder,” Rogers reiterated. “Not only is this their seventh location in Kentucky but the fifth in our region, five in the area that I represent in, and we thank you so much for thinking of us but you have learned that we have the best workforce in the country.”

Rogers said that leaders within SEKRI have expressed to him that the work ethic of the people in southern and eastern Kentucky surpasses any they have across the country at other plants they operate.

“The work ethic is the big drawing card for us in the future,” he said. “I believe that we are on the cusp of making some really good things happen.”

He pointed out that this community has a hot economy right here.

“We’ve got very skilled and talented workers who are looking for a job,” he continued. “SEKRI is a special place, and I remember going to the dedication over in Corbin, the first of the plants in our area, but I feel this one is going to be highly successful.”

Rogers reiterated that SEKRI is a special company and they are dedicated to their communities. He said one important thing to take note of was the leadership from the community.

“You’ve got some dedicated civic workers, you’ve got important leadership lined up here, which is fantastic,” he said. “To see the mayors and the county judge pulling together and working together, that means so much to a company who is looking for cooperation from an entire community, and you are getting that from this operation right now.

Rogers encouraged the community to keep up the great work.

“I want you think about the future of our region,” he said. “Albey (Brock) is a big piece of what we call SOAR, Saving Our Appalachian Region, and that organization covers 42 counties including Bell,” Rogers explained. “Their effort is to rethink what we can do to make a living, think outside the box, and think different thoughts. You’re brilliant people and we are trying to harness that energy and that intelligence and that experience to rethink our future and do things that we have not thought about before.”

The plant currently has 12 employees, but SEKRI officials say they intend to have up to 100 employees by the end of their first year.

The most pivotal part of SEKRI’s hiring process is their devotion to hiring close to 75 percent of their staff, that have some sort of documented disability.

“This chance we have now is for us to bring the factories here instead of us go there and SOAR is the way that we are trying to recruit, rethink, reimagine, and exercise hope, and it’s beginning to work,” Rogers said before closing.

If you would like to apply to SEKRI, you can visit their location on Cumberland Avenue.