Anyone who has the pleasure of sampling the Commonwealth’s most well known export, Kentucky bourbon, knows that the older the bourbon, the better it is.
In other words this stuff definitely gets better with time.
Hence we have a fitting analogy today for how the bourbon industry is doing in Kentucky. The Associated Press said this week that as time has passed here in Kentucky, the bourbon industry has continued to age well, demonstrating serious economic power when it comes to job growth. And, its economic clout is maturing as well, making for contributions of $8.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.
The AP said the numbers are based on an industry report released Wednesday showing the distilling industry’s economic output increased 60 percent in the past decade in Kentucky, where most of the world’s bourbon is made.
It says total licensed Kentucky distilleries surged from 19 in 2009 to 68 last spring.
The report says distilling generates more than 20,100 jobs — more than double the jobs in 2009. Bourbon inventory rose more than 60 percent in the past decade.
Kentucky distillers shipped more than $452 million of their spirits abroad in 2017. Spirits makers are worried retaliatory tariffs in some key overseas markets could hurt sales.
The sector also pointed to big increases in jobs, capital investment and tax revenue.
“This is a monumental success story,” Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association board of directors, said at the statehouse event Wednesday.
Industry officials credited Kentucky lawmakers with speeding the momentum by setting a new policy course for the sector. The idea was that lowering the spirits industry’s tax burden at a time when it was growing would increase the flow of tax revenue to the state.
Lawmakers followed through a few years ago by approving a credit to offset the cost of a tax on aging barrels of distilled spirits, effectively eliminating it for distillers. Distillers still pay the tax, and the money goes mainly to public education, but they get the money back through the tax credit. State leaders also eased regulations on the spirits industry.
Not too shabby. We are big believers that this region of Kentucky is, to some degree, at least, missing out on the potential economic boom the craft beer and distillery industries can offer. We have written before — and will say again — that a huge economic growth area is found in craft beer and distilleries.
Ashland needs to explore this further, as Pikeville has done. Doing so brings the potential for jobs, and we know this region needs jobs. The craft brewing industry alone reported recently that it contributed a whopping $76.2 billion to the U.S. Economy in 2017, and that helped provide for more than 500,000 jobs nationwide.
We are advocates for exploring what it will take to get this type of investment going further in the Ashland area. Doing so requires thinking outside the box and capital investment, but it’s time.
This is one of those sectors that is a true economic driver, and not doing everything possible to explore the growth potential here is a mistake.