Wild Turkey distillery expanding, adding 62 jobs in Lawrenceburg

ssloan@herald-leader.comFebruary 23, 2012 

As part of its continued expansion, Wild Turkey will add a 125,000-square-foot packaging facility to its distillery in Lawrenceburg.

PHOTO COURTESY CAMPARI AMERICA — Photo courtesy Campari America

  • Changes at distillery

    ■ $44 million packaging center adding 62 jobs; expected to be completed by 2013.

    ■ $50 million production expansion that doubled capacity; completed last summer.

    ■ $4 million expansion of the visitor center, a project approved for state tax incentives but has not been announced by the company.

Continuing a series of investments at the Lawrenceburg distillery, Wild Turkey's parent company announced Thursday that it plans to add a packaging facility and 62 jobs.

Other initiatives have included expansion of the distillery and plans for a larger visitor center. Since Wild Turkey was purchased by Italian beverage company Gruppo Campari in 2009, the company has invested nearly $100 million in Lawrenceburg.

"That speaks to our belief in the Wild Turkey bourbon brand," spokesman Dave Karraker said after Thursday's announcement.

Construction of the $44 million packaging facility will bring bottling capabilities back to the distillery. Those were removed in 2006 by previous owner Pernod Ricard, which continues to bottle the bourbon on a contract basis at other sites.

"This will allow us to do every step of the production process in one location, from the distilling to the aging to the bottling," Karraker said.

The site also will bottle Gruppo Campari's Skyy vodka, which is done by contractors.

"The benefits to us are efficiency, quality control and forecasting as well, as we can see how much liquid is going through our plant," Karraker said. "All that leads to better control of the product and better management of our products."

The 125,000-square-foot packaging facility is expected to be completed in 2013.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval Thursday for $2.35 million in tax incentives for the project. Under terms of the agreement, the company is to hire 62 workers earning an average hourly wage of $27 including benefits. The company is required to maintain its current employment of 83 full-time Kentucky residents, according to the deal.

"We're proud of Wild Turkey's rich tradition and long-standing commitment to Kentucky," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement. "A Kentucky family first built a distillery in Lawrenceburg back in 1869, and now, nearly a century and a half later, Wild Turkey is still providing a livelihood for Kentucky families."

That livelihood is growing with the investments at the site. Last year, the company completed a $50 million distillery expansion that doubled its annual production capacity.

The company also was approved for more than $75,000 in tax incentives Thursday for its plan for a larger visitor center. The project is expected to cost $4 million. Karraker declined to discuss the project, which has not been announced by the company.

He said the investments come as bourbon is growing "extremely well in the United States."

"In other countries like Japan, Canada and Australia, the growth rates are exceeding what you see in the United States," he said. "The opportunity is really there to expand bourbon beyond the United States.

"Taking a look at these opportunities we see with bourbon really justifies the spending we're making at Wild Turkey."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz

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