October 9, 2020

Manufacturing Month Highlights Key Employers Helping to Build a Better Kentucky


With around 4,500 facilities spread throughout the state employing 260,000 people, Kentucky's robust and diverse manufacturing sector has long supplied the world with products that run the gamut. Now, manufacturers are helping Kentucky to build back stronger than ever before.

From automotive to primary metals to food and beverage to aerospace, Kentucky provides an ideal home for companies of most any size and specialty, as evidenced by a number of new location and expansion announcements throughout the first nine months of this year, and even amid all the hardship COVID-19 continues to inflict. These recent developments within the state's powerful manufacturing scene point to a brighter economic future.

For example, Gov. Andy Beshear and the founders of Clermont Distilling Co. in September announced the company's plans to construct a new distillery and create 22 high-paying jobs in Bullitt County as part of a $13.4 million, Phase I investment.

The venture – spearheaded by well-established regional developer Lee Wilburn – also holds the potential for significant future expansion and additional job creation.

"This is great news for Kentucky's signature bourbon industry," Gov. Beshear said. "I want to thank Lee and his team for recognizing that paying good wages strengthens families and communities."

Clermont's leaders expect to begin construction on the distillery in spring 2021. Phase I of the project comprises building a traditionally designed, energy-efficient distillery off Interstate Highway 65 at the Clermont/Bardstown exit. The distillery's operations will span 15 acres alongside Kentucky Highway 245 leading to Bardstown. In total, executives aim to develop 55 acres at the site.

Plans for the distillery include a tasting room, a gift shop, a rick house to store 24,000 bourbon barrels and a grain house. The operations also are expected to include a 36-inch continuous still, which will provide flexibility to upscale production as high as 50,000 barrels per year.

As a whole, Kentucky's food and beverage industry saw more than $411 million in planned investment and nearly 750 new jobs announced through August, outpacing announcements through the same period last year ($236 million and just over 690 new jobs). While the commonwealth is no exception to the pandemic's global economic devastation, this continued commitment from businesses to invest and create jobs in Kentucky bodes well as the state works to build back stronger.

Since Gov. Beshear took office last December, manufacturers announced approximately $1.2 billion in planned investment, with potential to generate over 4,300 full-time jobs for Kentuckians across the state in the coming years.

Continued strength in the state's major manufacturing sector is a big reason 13% of Kentucky's workforce is tied to manufacturing, well above the national average of 8.5%, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. One such manufacturer, GE Appliances, in July made public its plans to invest $62 million and create 260 jobs to boost high-end refrigerator production and upgrade its existing dishwasher line at Louisville's Appliance Park.

These mark just a few examples of significant projects announced in 2020, as several industries within Kentucky's manufacturing sector have demonstrated resiliency amid uncertainty. They include a dominant automotive industry that employs roughly 100,000 people full time, a primary metals industry responsible for over 26,000 full-time jobs, and the state's aforementioned food and beverage industry, which employs over 52,000 people full time.

Despite companies' uncertainty of what comes next, manufacturers continue to invest in Kentucky at a high rate and underpin the state's ability to support businesses from every sector.

Click here to learn more about existing manufacturers in Kentucky, and follow the Cabinet for Economic Development's updates throughout Manufacturing Month on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.