American Greetings expansion could create more than 50 jobs

Published 7:22 pm Friday, January 18, 2019

Small businesses are the bread and butter of economic development for Boyle County, according to the final “project funnel report” for 2018 from Develop Danville and its President, Jody Lassiter. But among the many smaller projects, there are also bigger ones that have been “announced” but are not yet complete. Those include one project that would create more than 50 jobs.

“Project Diamond,” as it was previously known, is an expansion project at Boyle County’s American Greetings plant. According to the project funnel report, it involves an investment of between $5 million and $10 million and would create “100+” jobs. The funnel report also notes that state incentives were approved on Oct. 25.

According to records from the state Cabinet for Economic Development, American Greetings Corporation was approved for $250,000 in tax incentives for a Boyle County project on that date. The state records say the initial investment is $9,639,573 and 62 new jobs that would be created. The average hourly wage for the jobs is anticipated to be $16.40.

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State tax incentives are awarded to businesses that create new jobs and then maintain those positions for certain periods of time. Approval for an incentive does not mean a company has hired the new employees or received the incentives yet.

Asked about Project Diamond and American Greetings, Jody Lassiter, CEO of Develop Danville, said he had been instructed to direct all inquiries to Patrice Molnar with American Greetings. Molnar did not answer her phone or respond to an email asking for comment this week.

The private equity investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice purchased a controlling interest in American Greetings in February 2018; in March, the company announced it would be closing its nearby Bardstown plant, which employed more than 400.

Funnel report

The 2018 project funnel report details 113 prospective business projects Develop Danville worked on during the year. A majority were potential small businesses with less than 50 jobs involved. That’s the norm for the area and for economic development these days, Lassiter said.

A majority of those under-50-jobs prospects are even smaller, potentially offering less than 25 jobs, Lassiter added.

“Those are the ones that require the greatest amount of time, attention and hand-holding to bring to fruition,” Lassiter said. “… This is not a big corporate recruiting game that we’re just working with large Fortune 500 companies. Yes we do have those … but in most cases, these are small businesses (looking at Danville and Boyle County), which are obviously a target of our strategic plan.”

Out of the 113 initial inquiries, 13 projects made it all the way to a public announcement. Nine of those announced projects have been completed, while four are in process, according to the project funnel report. The 13 announcements represent about 12 percent of total inquiries, meaning a little more than one out of every 10 inquiries resulted in an announcement.

The nine completed projects are:

• a commercial property on Southtown Drive in Danville that has been “sold to new owner, Jay Guru Inc.” and reopening has been “advertised;”

• a business expansion for Reclaimed Reserve on Stewarts Lane in Danville, which has an estimated investment of between $500,000 and $1 million;

• an “industry joint venture” that resulted in one company leasing “needed space for project in (a) third-party facility;”

• the 2018 land acquisition by Wilderness Trail Distillery;

• the opening of Love Your Mother Lawns LLC in March, with an initial investment of less than $100,000;

• the opening of Gypsy Run Brewery in downtown Danville in December, with an initial investment of between $100,000 and $500,000 and between one and nine new jobs;

• the opening of Pallets to Bins on Hustonville Road;

• the opening of Gospel Garden Learning Center LLC in September, creating between one and nine new jobs; and

• the opening of Transformed Christian Counseling PLLC in Danville in November.

The four announced projects still in process are:

• “Project Angel,” a distillery project from IJW Whiskey, which is building rickhouses along Lebanon Road and is expected to make an investment of between $10 million and $25 million, creating between one and nine jobs;

• “Project Delaware,” another plan for a distillery, Luca Mariano Distillery, on farmland off of Ky. 52 in east Danville;

• an expansion of Hill-n-Dale Apartments LLC with an estimated investment of between $1 million and $5 million; and

• “Project Diamond,” the American Greetings expansion.