Cash on the Barrelhead: Speyside cooperage to benefit Washington, Smyth economies


France-based Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. will invest $26 million to establish a bourbon barrel cooperage in Smyth County, Va., and $9 million in a new stave mill facility in Washington County, Va. The stave mill will supply the company’s new Smyth County cooperage, and the two operations will ramp up simultaneously.

The announcement came from the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who said the projects will create 125 new jobs in Smyth County and 35 new jobs in Washington County. “Speyside Bourbon Cooperage is expanding its footprint in Virginia just two years after announcing its first operation in Bath County, a neat testament to the Commonwealth’s business advantages and access to markets,” Northam said. “This global company’s new facilities in Smyth and Washington Counties will be a significant economic boost to the region, and we look forward to working with our state partners to facilitate the company’s success in the Commonwealth.”

Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. is an offspring of Speyside Cooperage Ltd., founded in Scotland in 1947. Some Scotch whisky distilleries alongside the River Spey in northern Scotland create “fine oak” varieties of their product by aging it in barrels previously used by Kentucky bourbon distilleries, then disassembled, shipped to Scotland and reassembled for use there.

In 2008 Speyside Cooperage was sold to the Tonnellerie François Frères Group, a publicly held company founded in 1910 and headquartered in France. The company operates stave mills and bourbon cooperages in the U.S., with facilities in Kentucky, Ohio, and Bath County, Va.

“Speyside Bourbon Cooperage is very excited to be expanding our operations in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said General Manager of Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. Darren Whitmer. “Working with state and local authorities has been a wonderful experience for us, and thanks to these groups of people we have been able to locate excellent sites for our upcoming expansions.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, and Virginia’s Industrial Advancement Alliance worked with Smyth and Washington Counties, the Smyth-Washington Regional Industrial Facilities Authority to secure the projects for Virginia. Governor Northam approved a $325,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Smyth County with the cooperage project and a $200,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund to assist Washington County with the stave mill project. The stave mill will procure approximately 80% of the white oak logs used for stave production from Virginia growers. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved a total of $510,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the projects.

The company is also eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and for Sales and Use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP).

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