‘Distillers Roundtable’ formed to help local distillers, economy

Published 9:10 am Monday, March 5, 2018

An informal group made up of distillers and government officials has formed a “Distillers Roundtable” in Boyle County to help support local alcohol producing enterprises and find ways for the area to capitalize on the immensely popular distilling and brewing industry that continues to see growth nationally.

But distilling businesses may not be the only ones to benefit from the roundtable discussions. Jennifer Kirchner, executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the discussions will strengthen the local Economic Development Partnership’s endeavors to bring more distilleries to the area, which in turn would benefit the community through taxes paid to local governments.

Distilleries don’t provide large numbers of jobs like manufacturing plants, but the taxes they pay would benefit the area, Kirchner said.

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For example, since each barrel of bourbon is taxed, it creates “a very large tax base increase for the local governments,” Kirchner said. “You’re talking about taxes for schools” and other needs the city and county have. 

Capital investments in distilleries are very large with “tens of millions of dollars of investments,” she said.

Figuring out how to keep and entice more distilleries and breweries to locate in Boyle County would have a large economic development impact, she said. 

The roundtable group will also explore options and opportunities to recruit and support secondary businesses associated with distilleries in agriculture and tourism.

“We need to get with it,” Kirchner said.

So the CVB and the EDP are working together in the discussions to foster economic growth for the area, Kirchner said.

Two distilleries, Wilderness Trail and Ambrabev, and a craft beer brewery, The Beer Engine, are currently the only alcohol producers in the county, but more are interested in locating here.

One of the first things the roundtable has discussed is how to support “our existing businesses and retain them. We want to take care of brewers and distillers and the spirit industry,” Kirchner said. She said the discussions will ” … call the people together and make sure everybody is talking. All of these ships rise with the tide.”

The roundtable includes Kirchner with the CVB; Hal Goode, representing the EDP; Danville City Manger Ron Scott; Danville Mayor Mike Perros; Danville City Engineer Earl Coffey; Shane Baker and Pat Heist with Wilderness Trail Distillery; Zach and Tom Baeker from Ambrabev; Morgan Bird from the Beer Engine; Adam Johnson with the Kentucky Distillers Association; and Dave Scheurich, an expert in the distilled spirits industry.

Because many of the members are leaders in the distilling industry, “We can ask them, ‘What do you look for or what do you need? What can we do to help you?” Kirchner said.

The members can provide input on what would make the area more attractive to distilleries, she said.

The roundtable discussions will help the EDP figure out how to get the community involved and “capture the opportunity” distilleries could add to the area, she said.

“We’re thrilled to do what we can do to promote them (distilleries) and harness whatever opportunity comes along with it.”