International animal nutrition giant Alltech plans to build a distillery and brewery in Pikeville as part of a major, multipart investment in economically depressed Eastern Kentucky.
The Nicholasville-based company has signed an agreement to buy property on Second Street in downtown Pikeville that was formerly the site of a funeral home.
Some Eastern Kentucky leaders, dealing with a region losing coal-mining jobs, have looked to replicate the success of nearby Gatlinburg, Tenn., which has long been a tourism hub. In addition to its location as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one major draw for Gatlinburg is the wildly successful Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, which claims to be America's most-visited distillery.
Alltech has a brewery and distillery in Lexington and a distillery in Ireland, where the company is moving operations into a historic church in Dublin. Alltech also makes bourbon, rye, single-malt whiskey and an Irish whiskey that has not yet been released.
The company has diverse interests, ranging from algae cultivation to the World Equestrian Games, but recently it has focused on helping economically strapped Ireland.
"When I think of Eastern Kentucky and I think of Pikeville, I think of Ireland and its history," said Alltech founder Pearse Lyons, a native of Ireland.
"The connections are phenomenal. ... From the bluegrass music that we call traditional music here to our history of whiskey, the connections run deep," Lyons said. "Therefore, for me to get involved in Pikeville and Eastern Kentucky, it is just natural. Our vision with this project is not only about job creation but making Eastern Kentucky more of a destination and economic hub."
Alltech did not disclose the purchase price for the property or the overall scope of the planned investment. The purchase is expected to close within a few weeks.
"This is the first aspect of a multipart investment Alltech plans to make in Eastern Kentucky. We look forward to announcing additional details on our Eastern Kentucky project next month," the company said in a statement.
Jared Arnett, president and CEO of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Pikeville, said his group was "definitely excited about Alltech being involved."
He said he showed Lyons and his Alltech team several sites for a variety of purposes.
"They have a wide range of investments and opportunities they are looking at in Eastern Kentucky. This is just one piece of the puzzle," Arnett said. "To have a company the size of Alltech looking at multiple things, from a distillery to agriculture, upwards of 10 projects, is great."
Lyons plans to announce more details about his plans, including an "angel" investment fund for job creation, at the 30th annual Alltech International Symposium, which begins Monday at the Lexington Convention Center. About 2,000 people from around the world are expected to attend.
Lyons will open the symposium, which also will focus on agricultural and food topics such as crop science, life sciences, Africa, business and technology, modern farming, and opportunities for working with algae.
Alltech also will present the 2014 Alltech Medal of Excellence Award posthumously to Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist Norman Borlaug, known as the "father of the green revolution." It will be presented to Borlaug's granddaughter Julie Borlaug Larson, a director at the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.
The 2014 Alltech Humanitarian Award will be given to two-time track and field Olympian Lopez Lomong, who as a child was among a group of refugees displaced by civil war. They were known as the "Lost Boys of Sudan." Lomong is also a philanthropist and author of the memoir Running for My Life.
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.