City Council hears details on barrel manufacturing plant

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The projected site map for the new WV Great Barrel Company facility. The UPS Customer Center can be seen in the bottom left, with I-64 running along the top of the site.

An update on the new barrel manufacturing plant was heard at the November White Sulphur Springs City Council meeting earlier this week. J. Philip Cornett of the WV Great Barrel Company was present to discuss details about plans for the facility and to answer some of the public’s questions.

The 90,000 square foot facility will be located close to the UPS Customer Center in Harts Run, and will be able to produce roughly 750-800 barrels in one eight hour work shift. Cornett emphasized the economic impact that the plant will have in the region by bringing in jobs. According to an economic impact analysis study done by Marshall University, the facility will generate an estimated $50 million annually.

The barrels this plant will be producing are in high demand due to the growing distilling industry. Bourbon, whiskey, and rye are all federally required to be placed in new white oak barrels every time it’s produced. “Think Smooth Ambler, think Jack Daniels,” said Cornett. “Every barrel of it has to go into a brand new white oak barrel, every time, every year. Two million of them last year alone.”

The plant will employ anywhere between 58-102 workers at their location in Harts Run, and Cornett said that number can be expected to rise as the business continues to boom due to demand. “It will probable double up pretty fast,” Cornett said.

“There is enough white oak within 150-200 miles of this place to satisfy demand. We have over two billion board foot of white oak within this region, and last year, only 480,000 board foot was harvested,” according to Cornett. “Part of our mission is to be responsible, to handle things right, and to be a great place to work. In addition, the white oak demand is said to be able to support another 176 jobs in the timber industry within 150-200 miles of here.”

“We’ve done some research, we see that in about 2019 the distilling industry is going to hit a wall. They’re going to be around 600,000 barrels short,” Cornett explained. “This will be the highest state-of-the-art barrel factory in the United States. It’s not a crowded field, there’s only six other places in the U.S. that do this. It’s a really small niche.”

Some of the equipment required for the facility is custom-made, and will take most of 2018 to complete. Cornett says they expect to be finished with construction and will be able to start producing by the first quarter of 2019.