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Netherys to open distillery in Shelby

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Endeavor awarded incentives from state economic development

By Lisa King

A Shelby County family is going full-steam ahead with plans to open a distillery here after receiving preliminary approval for business incentives from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority to locate in Shelby County.

Bruce and Joyce Nethery are one of three potential groups who have been interested in opening a distillery in Shelby County, and after the Shelby County Fiscal Court in March approved legislation to allow distilleries and now receiving an economic boost from the state, they say they are ready to begin their venture.

“We are thinking it will be about a year from property acquisition, so we’re hoping to open up next summer,” said Joyce Nethery, adding that she and her husband, Bruce do not plan to use property they already own in the eastern portion of the county.

Their venture, Rut ‘N Strut Distillery, received preliminary approval Thursday for economic development incentives of $150,000 in tax incentives over a period of 5 years. The business is expected to generate 11 jobs at a base wage of $10.88 per hour, with a total investment of $4,097,772.

The distillery will manufacture a variety of distilled spirits, primarily bourbon, but also vodka and corn whiskey, or moonshine.

The entire project includes the acquisition of land, construction of a distillery and a visitor center, as well as crop production.

Nethery said that the business would be a true family affair.

The couple’s daughter, Autumn, will start school this fall at the Heriot-Watt master distilling program in Scotland.

“They have an excellent program on brewing and distilling; they are sort of the Harvard University of fermentation,” said Nethery, with a chuckle.

She said her son, who is still in high school, would also play a significant role.

“He is interested in growing the grains and supplying the raw materials,” she said. “We will actually be growing some corn and growing some wheat. We will have heirloom heritage corn, open pollinated and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) so it’s pretty special.”

Said Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby Industrial and Development Foundation: “They are approved for a total amount and they can only recoup so much per year. So that breaks down over five years at thirty-thousand a year, which is through occupation tax withholding or corporate income tax.”

Adams said she is glad the Netherys are going ahead with their project.

“They are going to be very good corporate stewards,” she said. “They are a very nice family, very motivated, very interested in staying in the community.”

That last factor was in doubt for a while, until the Netherys received a financial boost from the state; they had previously been considering locating the distillery in a nearby state.

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger echoed Adams’ enthusiasm about the project.

“We’ve been working with Bruce and Joyce Nethery for quite some time now, and they were one of the first ones that appeared when we considered legislation that would permit these craft style distilleries and that’s really what we’ve been looking for,” he said.

The goal behind the county’s legislation was to improve economic development and tourism prospects that would bring more revenue into Shelby County, a move initiated by the Shelby County Fiscal Court last year when both entities voted to allow distilleries to locate in agricultural zones,

“We’re trying to clear the path for them,” said Rothenburger. “They have to have at least one-hundred acres and twenty-five percent of it would have to be agricultural or for conservation practices, and according to their business plan, they are going to follow it to the T.”

Said Nethery: “We do intend to have tours of the distillery; we’re also going to have a farm. We’ll have tours where everybody can go out and see everything growing. They’ll be able to tour the distillery, and after the tour there will be a tasting.”

Rothenburger said he likes the couple’s plans for the facility.

“They really have a neat plan; they’re going to raise some of their own commodities they need for their niche type of distillery,” he said. “It’s very exciting, because they’re really reaching into a niche market that I think is going to be absolutely fabulous, not only for this county and this community, but also for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

He added that the business incentives they received would help them get the distillery off the ground.

“What we’ve [Shelby County Fiscal Court] gone in with on the KBI [Kentucky Business Investments] would allow them to keep those occupational dollars for a period of five years and they can turn around and invest that money right back into their operations,” he said. “We do that for all businesses approved for KBI. It really helps small operations get on their feet get up and running.”