The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, August 21, 2008, at 1:00 PM, in the Gheens Room of the Louisville Zoo. Representative Eddie Ballard, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Eddie Ballard, Co-Chair; Senators Julie Denton, Brett Guthrie, Denise Harper Angel, Richie Sanders Jr., and Gary Tapp; Representatives Larry Belcher, Kevin D. Bratcher, Larry Clark, Will Coursey, Jim DeCesare, Mike Denham, Bob M. DeWeese, Myron Dossett, Ted Edmonds, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, Dennis Horlander, Joni L. Jenkins, Dennis Keene, Thomas Kerr, Adam Koenig, Tim Moore, Fred Nesler, David Osborne, Ruth Ann Palumbo, John Will Stacy, Tommy Thompson, Alecia Webb-Edgington, and Ron Weston.
Guests: John Walczak, Director, Louisville Zoo; Ron Wolf, Manager, Intergovernmental Relations, Louisville Mayor’s Office; Eric Gregory, President, Kentucky Distillers’ Association; and Cheryl Hatcher, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Travel, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
LRC Staff: John Buckner, Committee Staff Administrator; Karen Armstrong-Cummings; Louis Pierce; and Dawn Johnson.
A quorum being present, the meeting was called to order. A motion and second by Representative Koenig and Senator Tapp to approve the minutes of the July 17, 2008, meeting passed by voice vote. Chairman Ballard thanked the Louisville Zoo for hosting the meeting. Chairman Ballard announced that the next meeting of the committee would be held September 18th at Camp Webb in Carter County to discuss adventure tourism.
Ron Wolf, Manager of Intergovernmental Relations for the Louisville Mayor’s Office, welcomed the committee to Louisville. Outlining Louisville’s economic development progress, Mr. Wolf said the recently passed tax increment financing (TIF) legislation has enabled another signature TIF project in downtown Louisville–the Center City District project located in the old Louisville Water Company block. The developer, The Cordish Company, is finalizing details of the approximately $200 million initial phase, with the completed project estimated at $435 million.
Mr. Wolf said that Louisville is honored to host the 2008 Ryder Cup. Opening day is September 16 at Valhalla Golf Course, and forty thousand tickets have been sold for each day of the event. Activities will begin after Labor Day leading up to the 16th.
John Walczak, Director of the Louisville Zoo, welcomed the members to the zoo. He said the zoo’s mission is to better the bond between people and our planet. The zoo facilitates familial bonding while serving as a resource for conservation education. The zoo also helps with math- and science-centered education. The “Zoo to You” program, which is in its fourth year, provides free outreach via 15 trips annually to all areas of the Commonwealth. The program us underwritten by companies in Jefferson County as well as other areas.
Mr. Walczak said that the zoo has set a new attendance records in the past two years. In 2007, 818,000 guests visited the Zoo. He said the zoo is exceeding the goals set forth in its business plan through successful projects like Glacier Run, the Australia exhibit, and the train station which opened in 2006. In 2007, the Splash Park debuted; in 2008, the Tiger Tundra opened, and future plans include the expansion of Glacier Run to include polar bears, seals and sea lions, which is scheduled to open in 2010.
Responding to Chairman Ballard’s question concerning the impact of school opening dates on attendance, Mr. Walczak said the earlier start of the school year has affected zoo attendance but that families visit more throughout the entire year rather than mainly in the summer months. He noted that school groups are utilizing the facility more.
Per Representative Clark’s request for elaboration on the importance of the zoo to schools, Mr. Walczak explained the various student-related programs at the zoo. Approximately 100,000 students visit the zoo each year. Along with the “Zoo to You” program, approximately 10-15,000 students participate in formal education programs at the zoo. The zoo also manages the Louisville Nature Center, which is a state nature preserve across from the zoo compound. Another educational project is “School at the Zoo” which targets 7th graders. Students spend a week at the zoo to learn scientific method. Approximately 80 percent of these students attend through corporate partner scholarships.
Next, Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) and Cheryl Hatcher, Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Travel, discussed some of the goals of the KDA and the development of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Formed in 1880 with headquarters in Frankfort, the KDA’s mission is to promote, protect, and represent Kentucky’s signature bourbon and distilling industry. Members include Brown-Forman and Diageo North America of Louisville, Buffalo Trace of Frankfort, Constellation Spirits of Bardstown, Four Roses and Wild Turkey of Lawrenceburg, Jim Beam of Clermont and Maker’s Mark of Loretto. Mr. Gregory explained that Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon–“America’s Official Native Spirit.” Production has doubled since 1999 from 455,078 barrels to 937,865 barrels produced in 2007. The economic impact on Kentucky has been more than 3,200 direct jobs and countless spin-off jobs which include everything from barrel making to retail sales. Bourbon generates more than $3 billion gross state product, and nearly $115 million in state and local taxes. Bourbon makers purchase 11 to 12 million bushels of grain each year. Mr. Gregory reviewed several expansion projects including Jim Beam’s $70 million expansion to include a significant upgrade to their visitor’s experience, Wild Turkey’s investment of $36 million to double its distilling and warehouse operations, Heaven Hill’s investment of $4 million to expand its Bernheim Distillery by 50 percent, and Maker’s Mark’s investment of $3 million to enhance its visitor’s experience. Mr. Gregory said total United States distilled spirits exports reached $1 billion in 2007. The top export countries are the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, France and Japan.
Mr. Gregory stated that the KDA formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999, which is patterned after California wine country tours and Scotland’s whisky trails. The Bourbon Trail includes seven distilleries: Jim Beam, Four Roses Distillery, Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve with the announcement of a new member expected soon. There are nearly 2,000,000 visits thus far with an average of 330,000 to 500,000 visits per year. Visitor growth has been 10 to 15 percent each year. Mr. Gregory noted that the national press, including publication such as the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler, has taken notice of bourbon’s growing tourism and economic impact.
Cheryl Hatcher said many communities along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail are capitalizing on the opportunities that bourbon presents, such as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Anderson, Franklin counties, Woodford county’s “Wine and Spirits Circle Tour,” and Louisville’s “Urban Bourbon Trail.” She said Lexington will soon introduce their “Bourbons of the Bluegrass” campaign, and a restoration of the “Distillery District” near Rupp Arena. Ms. Hatcher said tour companies, specialty foods shops, magazines and restaurants are creating niche markets from the success of bourbon and the Bourbon Trail. She said that the Department of Travel is including bourbon in its tourism marketing. In partnership with the KDA, the Department of Travel is overseeing “The Kentucky Experience” -- a 40,000 square foot facility on the grounds of the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games that will showcase Kentucky and its products.
Responding to Representative Clark’s question concerning funding, Mr. Gregory said the KDA is funded through dues from members and nonprofit-eligible matching funds.
Representative Edmond’s asked for further information on Lexington’s Distillery District project. David Lord, Chief Executive Officer of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau explained that the site is the former Pepper Distillery one of the largest and earliest bourbon distillers that closed in the 1960s, located on 40 acres on Manchester Street. Mr. Lord said Barry McNees has purchased surrounding properties including the McConnell House and the Old Tarr Distillery. He noted that Mr. Pettit and others are working on Town Branch Trail, which will be a bicycle trail from downtown to Masterson Station Park. Mr. Pettit would like to refurbish a distillery as a demonstration distillery. The project will be similar to Toronto’s refurbished Distillery District. Mr. Lord said the intent is to present the $200 million project for TIF funds. He said that developers in Louisville are considering a similar project along the Claremont interchange near the Jim Beam facility.
Representative Palumbo said the Lexington distillery project would incorporate several arts-related components. Mr. Gregory added that the Old Tarr Distillery has already been renovated into an events hall.
Responding to Chairman Ballard’s question about how long it takes to tour the Bourbon Trail, Mr. Gregory said it could be completed in a long weekend with proper planning. Each distillery visit is approximately one hour.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:00 PM.