FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 8, 2022) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced continued momentum of the state’s bourbon industry as Kentucky Bourbon Distillers LTD, doing business as Willett Distillery, will invest nearly $93 million in Washington County to build warehouses and additional production facilities, creating 35 full-time jobs.
“Kentucky’s bourbon industry is experiencing incredible momentum throughout the entire state,” said Gov. Beshear. “The demand for our bourbon is stronger than ever, and that’s a testament to the companies and distillers we have in the commonwealth who produce high-quality, world-class bourbon. Willett Distillery, which has been a staple of Kentucky bourbon for over eight decades, is bringing quality jobs to Washington County. I want to thank their leadership for continuing to support the commonwealth and look forward to many more years of their success.”
To meet the growing demand of the Willett collection of brands, the company is investing nearly $93 million to support projects that include the construction of a new distillery operation, barrel storage warehouses and a water storage area for fire prevention. The project, located at 1170 Mackville Road in Springfield, will see the construction of a 70,000-square-foot facility on 150 acres. Construction of the project is expected to begin in January 2023.
“We are grateful for each person that picks up a bottle of our family’s whiskey,” said Britt Kulsveen, president and chief whiskey officer at Willett Distillery. “It is both humbling and the greatest honor to be included in any celebration. Our intention is always to make a personal connection with our customers and fill their glass with cheer.”
Drew Kulsveen, master distiller and director of operations of Willett Distillery, added that he is appreciative of the hospitality shown from the local community.
“The Springfield community has graciously welcomed us with the same warmth and attentiveness that we try to show our guests every day,” said Kulsveen. “We are grateful for the kindness and support we have received from the Springfield community and for the continued support of our Bardstown home.”
Founded in 1936, Willett Distillery is a family owned and operated distillery located in Nelson County, Kentucky. Over the last 86 years, Willett has grown gradually, methodically and responsibly, incorporating the family values of southern hospitality, craftsmanship and compassion in their products and services through the years. Over the last five years, the Willett employee base has nearly doubled. Today, the company employs 67 people that host more than 80,000 guests annually and distill, barrel and bottle 11 brands that are distributed in 40 states.
Willett Distillery’s investment adds to the commonwealth’s booming bourbon sector, which is a nearly $9 billion signature industry in Kentucky generating more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll exceeding $1.23 billion. Since the start of the Beshear administration, more than 60 spirits-related announcements have generated roughly $2.5 billion in new investment, creating more than 1,300 full-time jobs for Kentuckians.
Washington County Judge/Executive Timothy Graves is thankful for Willett’s expansion and the economic boost the company will provide to the region.
“This is an exciting announcement,” said Judge Graves. “We are located in the heart of the bourbon trail, and this project will add good-paying jobs and investment to our county. We want to welcome and thank Willett Distillery for selecting Washington County for their continued growth!”
Springfield Mayor Debbie Wakefield noted the company’s rich history in the bourbon industry and welcomed its leaders to the community.
“This is outstanding for our community from a jobs and investment standpoint, but also because Willett has such a rich history in the distilling industry, and an outstanding reputation for quality and community,” said Mayor Wakefield. “We are thrilled that they have chosen Springfield for this project!”
Daniel Carney, executive director of the Springfield-Washington County Economic Development Authority, mentioned the quality of the company’s brand as an ideal fit for the strong bourbon presence in Central Kentucky.
“The world’s finest spirits are made and aged right here in Central Kentucky, and Willett has established themselves as an iconic brand, known for their commitment to quality,” said Carney. “This is a perfect fit, as they continue the growth of their family owned distillery in Springfield and Washington County.”
Willett Distillery’s investment and planned job creation furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth, as the state builds back stronger from the effects of the pandemic.
In 2021, the commonwealth shattered every economic development record in the books. Private-sector new-location and expansion announcements included a record $11.2 billion in total planned investment and commitments to create a record 18,000-plus full-time jobs across the coming years. Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide in 2021 was $24 before benefits, a 9.4% increase over the previous year.
New job creation is accompanied by rising wages across the commonwealth. The average incentivized hourly wage in 2021 was $24 before benefits, the second-highest mark over the past seven years. Wages have continued to rise in 2022, with an average incentivized wage of $26.71 through November.
Gov. Beshear has now secured the best two-year period in state history for economic growth. Gov. Beshear has announced 41,237 full-time jobs and 728 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling, $22.89 billion in announced investments during his administration.
Gov. Beshear has also announced the two largest economic development projects in state history. In September 2021, Gov. Beshear and leaders from Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation celebrated a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs in Hardin County. And in April of this year, the Governor was joined by leadership at Envision AESC to announce a $2 billion investment that will create 2,000 jobs in Warren County. These announcements solidify Kentucky as the EV battery production capital of the United States.
Kentucky’s success has been noted by both S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings, which have upgraded the state’s financial outlook to positive in recognition of the commonwealth’s surging economy. In addition, Site Selection magazine placed Kentucky at 6th in its annual Prosperity Cup rankings for 2022, which recognizes state-level economic success based on capital investments.
Kentucky has posted record low unemployment rates, holding at or below 3.9% since April 2022 – the longest period in state history.
In July, the Governor reported the highest annual growth rate in 31 years. And for the second year in a row, Kentucky’s General Fund budget surplus has exceeded $1 billion. Also in July, Gov. Beshear reported that the state’s rainy-day fund is up to a record balance of $2.7 billion, significantly higher than the $129 million balance the fund had when the Governor took office.
Kentucky reported August 2022 General Fund receipts hit an unprecedented high for any August on record, marking 21 straight months of growing revenues for the state.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Kentucky lead the entire nation in job growth for the month of August and tied with New Hampshire for the largest jump in employment growth for September.
In September, Kentucky reported August 2022 General Fund receipts hit an unprecedented high for any August on record, marking 21 straight months of growing revenues for the state. September was also the third highest revenue month on record with more than $1.4 billion reported, marking the seventh month this year with collections topping $1 billion.
And from September 2021 to September 2022, Kentucky added 81,700 new jobs. Except for a four-month recovery period after the initial COVID-19 shock, this is the largest number of new jobs added in 20 years.
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $800,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $92.8 million and annual targets of:
- Creation and maintenance of 35 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 10 years; and
- Paying an average hourly wage of $34.96 including benefits across those jobs, and an average base pay of $24 not including benefits.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, Willett Distillery can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.
For more information on Willett Distillery, visit kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com.
A detailed community profile for Washington County can be viewed here.
Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at CED.ky.gov. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion at facebook.com/CEDkygov, on Twitter @CEDkygov, Instagram @CEDkygov and LinkedIn.