On Wednesday, the Kentucky Distillers Association released a study on the growth of the bourbon industry and its impact on the state’s economy, tourism, and global image.
At a press conference in the state Capitol, state legislative and bourbon industry leaders touted the success of the state’s signature drink over the last decade and stressed the importance of continued growth.
The new study shows Kentucky bourbon now pours $8.6 billion each year into the state’s economy, generates more than 20,100 good-paying jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion, provides $235 million in local and state tax revenue, and is in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom.
Over the last decade, the number of distilleries in Kentucky has more than tripled to 68 in that time and there are now nearly two barrels of spirits for every person in the Commonwealth.
Former Makers Mark President Bill Samuels Jr. recalled a day 10 years earlier when the bourbon industry made a strong statement by pouring bottles of bourbon out onto the Capitol steps in reaction to a proposed tax increase, sparking the changes seen in the signature industry since.
Samuels credited the work of the legislature and pro-growth policies passed over the last decade for much of the success seen by Kentucky bourbon distillers, including eliminating the tax on bourbon barrels, lowering taxes on the spirit, and reversing other restrictive prohibition-era regulations.
As a result, Samuels said total taxes paid by distillers has increased by 88% after lowering the rates while other areas including payroll, export, and other revenues have also grown exponentially over the last 10 years.
He pointed to Senate President Robert Stivers as a particularly strong proponent for change.
Stivers said he visited Napa Valley, California and asked himself “why can’t Kentucky be like this?” He said he then came to the bourbon industry with ideas on how to get government out of the way of the industry’s growth and allow them to produce more of their product, create jobs, and become a tourism attraction for the state.
Moving forward, Stivers said he would like to see that growth continue with increased expansion of the industry and global presence so more people will enter a restaurant or bar in another area and look on the wall to see what Kentucky brands they carry.
House Speaker David Osborne said the growth in the industry, after doing away with many government regulations on bourbon, shows what happens when government gets out of the way and lets business do what they do best, create jobs and economic growth. Speaker Osborne added there is still more work to be done to ensure bourbon can thrive in the Commonwealth and the General Assembly is committed to that mission.
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson spoke to the incredible benefit this growth has provided across all areas of the state with more than 20,000 direct jobs from distillers and even more with other businesses working alongside them as well as the millions in revenue the industry which has a big impact and helps the state excel.
Noting national press coverage of Kentucky becoming the Napa of bourbon, Adkisson celebrated the legislature and other leaders for realizing good legislation matters in growing the state’s economy and global image.