The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 15, 2012

Whiskey barrel company to hire 200 workers in Lawrence Co.

From Staff Reports
For The News Courier

— If the recent spate of announcements is any indication, the Tennessee Valley has become one of the nation’s top industry hotspots.

Just two days after Magneti Marelli in Pulaski, Tenn., announced it would hire 800 people as part of a new automotive headlamp factory, officials in Alabama announced a new company in Lawrence County would bring 200 new jobs.

Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday joined with officials from Brown-Forman Corporation and state and local economic development leaders in announcing that the company will begin its second significant expansion into Alabama in the last 12 months.

Brown-Forman, the producer of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, will open the new Jack Daniel Cooperage on a site in Lawrence County near Decatur to produce new oak barrels.  The term “cooperage” refers to the art of barrel making.

The company is already set to open a new sawmill in Stevenson this month.

“I am appreciative of the new jobs that Brown-Forman continues to bring to Alabama. We are moving forward in our commitment to put Alabama back to work,” Bentley said. “We are glad that Alabama has the type of business climate and workforce that will keep companies in expansion mode.”

Limestone County, which landed Pennsylvania-based Carpenter Technology Corporation last year, is no stranger to positive industrial news. Last week, Advanced Technical Avionics, which is a subsidiary of Advanced Technical Manufacturing, announced it would open a site in the Dekko Industrial Park in Ardmore that would employ 35 people.

Advanced Technical Manufacturing is in preliminary discussions to possibly open a second location of another subsidiary, Advanced Technical Finishing, in the same park.

In March, the Alabama Department of Commerce announced Limestone County led the state in capital investments in 2011 with $539.2 million.

Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, said Thursday’s announcement in Lawrence County was not only good for that county, but also good for Limestone.

“We treat ourselves as a region and we’ll have folks from over there come here to work and we’ll have folks from here go over there,” he said. “We like to congratulate our other counties when they’re successful.”

When asked what makes the Tennessee Valley so attractive to potential industries, Hill said it boils down to the workforce, education and logistics. He said North Alabama not only has a well-trained workforce, but a combination of technology-savvy junior colleges and technical schools are attractive to high-tech companies.

Logistics, however, are arguably second-to-none.

“You’ve got Highway 20 (U.S. 72-A) running from the river in Decatur to the Shoals, so you’ve got a good east-west transportation route there. There’s also I-65, so you’ve got good highway infrastructure,” he said, adding there’s also access to railroad and river transport and a local airport. “From a logistics standpoint, we have all the modes covered.”

Jeremy King, spokesman for Gov. Bentley, said each region of the state has something to offer potential industries, but project announced Thursday exemplified a “spirit of cooperation” between local and state leaders. He said the governor would continue to work to land more industries and put more Alabamians back to work.

“The governor has made it clear he would continue job creation efforts, so we are thrilled with the announcements we had (Thursday),” he said.

Brown-Forman Corporation is the only spirits company in the world that produces its own new white oak barrels and currently operates a cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.

The company has produced many products such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Southern Comfort for 142 years. Brown-Forman’s brands are supported by 4,000 employees and sold in approximately 135 countries worldwide.