$66 million bottling facility planned for former Pillsbury plant

An international alcoholic beverage company will open a bottling facility in the former Pillsbury plant in New Albany in a $66 million investment

Metairie, La.-based Sazerac Brands LLC will create 110 jobs at the new operation, which is dependent on the project receiving approval for tax credits. The company hopes to begin operations late this year, initially with 50 employees.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2021, and the new jobs will pay an average wage of $24 an hour plus benefits.

Sazerac’s portfolio includes Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace and many other brands. The company has an office in Louisville.

The company will expand its processing, blending, packaging and distribution capabilities at the plant. It would be its first project in Indiana and expand its presence near Kentucky, where it currently employs 1,000 or more people.

Jeff Conder, vice president of manufacturing for Sazerac Co., said the type of spirits that will be processed and bottled at the facility will be determined after the company acquires the plant, which is expected to occur in the coming weeks if the incentives are approved.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Sazerac as much as $900,000 in tax credits and as much as $150,000 in training grants, based on the company’s job-creation plans, according to a news release. These incentives are performance-based, meaning that until Indiana workers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.

The New Albany City Council is scheduled to vote on final approval of the company’s local incentives next week. Council president Al Knable said he cannot speak for the entire council but believes the incentives will be approved as this is a key step forward for New Albany, describing 2016 as a trying year for economic development in the city because of the Pillsbury plant’s closure.

Sazerac has grown significantly in the last several years and has invested heavily in its manufacturing network, including large investments in three plants in Kentucky, according to the release. Its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort is undergoing a $1.2 billion investment over the next 10 years, including new mash cookers, bottling lines and barrel warehouses. The company’s Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown completed a $15 million distillery and grain-drying upgrade in 2017, and The Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro completed a $45 million addition in 2016 with a new distribution center.

Today’s announcement comes less than two years after General Mills Inc. closed its Pillsbury plant affecting about 400 employees.

Minneapolis-based General Mills (NYSE: GIS) had operated the plant since the late 1950s. It is located off Grant Line Road, south of Interstate 265, and made refrigerated dough products.

General Mills told New Albany officials at the time that the decision was made because of excess capacity in the food giant’s supply chain. A statement from Mayor Jeff Gahan‘s office said the company had been reviewing its supply chain and that this was the fourth plant closing attributed to excess capacity.

Gahan said Wednesday that this transformative project is the type of economic catalyst that can reap dividends beyond the jobs created by Sazerac.

“This investment will lead to other investments,” he said.

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of economic development agency One Southern Indiana, previously had said the plant’s closing was the largest employment loss for the area since Colgate-Palmolive Co. closed its Clarksville plant in 2007, and General Mills was one of the largest employers in New Albany.

General Mills sold the plant and all the property to New Albany Acquisitions LLC. New Albany Acquisitions is a joint venture of New Mill Capital Holdings and Tiger Capital Group, both of which are New York-based investment firms.

As rain pelted the nearly 460,000-square-foot plant Wednesday morning, several speakers said the weather did little to dampen what is a bright day for New Albany’s future.

Matt Hall, executive vice president of One Southern Indiana, told me after the news conference that Sazerac initially looked at an undisclosed alternative site in the area that didn’t work out, so the state of Indiana and One Southern Indiana together suggested the company look at the plant.

The first tour came about five months ago, and Sazerac officials recognized opportunity on that initial visit. Conder told reporters that the location is right in the heart of the company’s existing operations in the Louisville area. The site also gives the company access to nearby interstate highways and rail.

Chesser said the loss of the Pillsbury plant is still a fresh wound for the community, but this announcement lets the city move ahead. “We were able to stitch [that wound]with something new.”

*Original article can be found at Louisville Business First