FRANKFORT — Alltech, a Nicholasville-based animal nutrition company, is bringing a new bourbon distillery and aquaculture and poultry farms to Pikeville as part of an initiative to develop business in Eastern Kentucky.
Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced plans Monday. Beshear said the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would provide up to $5.73 million for an access road wide enough to accommodate tractor-trailers to a new industrial park that would be the site of the aquaculture and poultry farms. The state also will provide $8 million for a bridge connecting the access road with U.S. 23.
The distillery will be in downtown Pikeville.
The aquaculture and poultry farms will be on 380 acres known as Marion Branch, formerly the site of a surface coal mine.
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The aquaculture facility will produce 1.2 million pounds of fish a year. The poultry farm will house only hens that lay eggs.
Deirdre Lyons, co-founder of Alltech, said construction would start on the Dueling Barrels distillery when engineering and demolition were completed on the site Alltech now owns. Construction on the poultry and aquaculture farms will start when the access road and bridge are completed, she said.
Lyons said Eastern Kentucky's struggle to keep jobs has always reminded her of Ireland, where she was born and raised.
"Ireland's biggest export has always been its people, and I think Eastern Kentucky is similar," Lyons said.
Lyons said the distillery would cost $10 million to $12 million, the poultry facility $3million to $5 million and the aquaculture facility $8 million to $10 million.
Beshear said the developments would help Eastern Kentucky residents by providing construction and local jobs. The project is part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR, initiative, which focuses on reviving Eastern Kentucky's economy.
"Some skeptics keep suggesting that economic development is impossible in Eastern Kentucky," Beshear said. "Well they're wrong, and we're here today to prove them wrong once again."
Lyons said it was hard to say exactly how many jobs the three facilities would create. Initially, the aquaculture farm should provide 45 jobs, and the distillery and poultry farm will have a total of almost 30.
She projected the number of jobs would grow after the project was finished, especially if the distillery becomes a part of Kentucky's Bourbon Trail. She said Alltech already had brought approximately 600 jobs to Kentucky.
Frank Justice, mayor of Pikeville, said the project would give hope to "the great men and women who have been the casualties of the war on coal."
Justice described the flat Marion Branch area as "gold" for developing businesses in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. He said the project had been 10 years in the making.
"As a coal operator, I personally know the hardship created by the downward spiral in the coal industry," he said. "I've seen the pain on the faces of many friends who have lost their careers, along with the ability to support their families."