WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — A year after first announcing plans for a whiskey barrel manufacturing plant in Greenbrier County, one of the two managers for the West Virginia Great Barrel Company said progress is evident at the company’s White Sulphur Springs site.
“I feel pretty good about where we’re at right now,” Tony Alexander told MetroNews after last week’s announcement that — following multiple delays — the final piece of necessary financing for the planned more than $30 million cooperage and stave mill projects was in place.
“We’re on track, even today, to be producing barrels by mid-summer of next year. That’s not too far off of where we thought we would be,” Alexander said.
“Now we have the resources available to complete the project.
Once production begins in 2019, the cooperage site in White Sulphur Springs was expected to manufacture up to 182,000 white oak barrels per year for use in whiskey distilling.
A future second shift addition could take that barrel number to 350,000.
Alexander reported site preparation was nearing completion and construction of metal buildings was slated to begin in November, creating 80 jobs during construction and 30 more for equipment installation lasting into Spring 2019.
The strips of white oak, the staves, that will be used to make the barrels will come from Audrina Mill, an affiliated company, located in Monroe County.
That production was scheduled to begin in early November.
Thirty jobs were being created with the addition of the new stave mill there, company officials said.
Already, Alexander said, more than $13.5 million in equity had been raised from investors for the West Virginia Great Barrel Company.
Additional funding was to come from a $6 million bridge loan with MVB Bank that was slated to eventually be replaced with an Economic Development Authority loan.
MVB Bank has also provided a $6.3 million equipment loan.
The remaining funding, upwards of $4 million according to Alexander, will be in the form of New Markets Tax Credits which are offered through the U.S. Department of Treasury to incentivize economic growth in distressed areas.
“Part of what we need and what I’ve seen from my dealings in West Virginia is we need more manufacturing facilities. Manufacturing facilities add economic vitality to a community. They offer new opportunities for other growth around it,” he said.
At the now-cleared manufacturing facility site in White Sulphur Springs, Alexander said more than 16 acres of additional land were available for other developments.
“That’s not easy property to find with water and sewer and electricity and gas lines already and a road already in place and fairly flat ground that’s easy to add new facilities on.”
Alexander, one of two managers for the West Virginia Great Barrel Company with Tom Crabtree, is a former executive with First Energy. He retired in 2015 after 43 years with the company.
In his new venture, he’ll be supplying different kinds of customers.
“They will be whiskey distillers all across America, primarily we’ll focus on those in the eastern half,” said Alexander.
Already, initial contacts have been made with distillers, he said, and those efforts were scheduled to ramp up in the New Year.