Fire Destroys Jackson County, Kentucky Factory

Fire destroyed a factory building housing Jackson County's largest private employer late Saturday night, leaving hundreds of the county's 13,500 residents without a place to earn a paycheck.

The Annville plant assembles printed circuit boards and does plastic injection molding, both of which are part of systems that dispense ice and water in home refrigerators, Weaver said.

Jerry Weaver, who started the firm, grew up in the region and initially moved away to find a job, but returned years later to build the Mid-South plant in Annville.

"Some people thought I was crazy," Jerry Weaver said in a September 2004 Herald-Leader story. "Jackson County wasn't exactly paradise for a manufacturer or any other business-person. But I knew the place had potential, that there was a good work force there just waiting for jobs."

Other Mid-South fires

Since opening, Mid-South Electronics has grown from 125 workers to about 700.

The plant was visited in 1999 by President Bill Clinton as part of a six-state tour to stimulate business growth in the nation's most poverty-stricken areas.

During his visit, Clinton promoted his New Markets Initiative proposal, which built on his previous empowerment zone program. As a portion of one of only three rural empowerment zones in the country, many Jackson County businesses were granted federal aid and tax credits.

Mid-South's $6 million facility expansion was financed in part by a loan through the empowerment zone program.

Saturday night's fire is not the first at a Mid-South facility.

A February 1985 fire severely damaged a plant in Clay County that employed 250 people. That facility's replacement was the one that burned Saturday in Jackson County.

A smaller Mid-South factory in Clay County also caught fire, in January 2004. After that blaze, which was caused by a gas heater, the plant's 50 workers were put to work almost immediately at the Ann-ville facility, Harold Weaver said.

"This is just totally different," he said.