A table full of liquor does not often accompany economic development announcements -- at least not publicly, anyway -- but Monday's news was worthy of a toast: Westpack, a subsidiary of Russia-based UniPack Group, has chosen Covington as the location of its first American facility.
That decision adds sixty-three jobs and $4.49 million in investments.
The company decorates bottles for liquor makers with some top shelf clients including Woodford Reserve, American Honey, Buffalo Trace, Dos Lunas, and many more.
Kentucky's expertise in the bourbon industry played a crucial role in landing the company.
"As you know, we make ninety-five percent of the bourbon in the world and the other five percent are fake," joked Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson who made the trip from Frankfort for the announcement.
But even with lots of liquor activity going on in these parts, Westpack considered all fifty states, said Sam Popiansky, who represented the company at Monday's announcement inside the Artisan Enterprise Center in Downtown Covington.
“With decoration plants in Russia and Europe, expanding into the U.S. market was a natural next step,” said Westpack Managing Director Simon Mnoyan in a news release. “And selecting the right state for our production was a function of customer logistics, business operating costs and quality of life. The Commonwealth of Kentucky provided and met all three requirements for our expansion. We would like to express our gratitude to the Commonwealth and the city of Covington for guidance and support in our endeavor.”
To encourage the investment and job creation in Covington, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $1.5 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
On January 29, the Covington City Commission approved an additional incentive in the form of a one percent rebate on Westpack's occupational license fee. Mayor Sherry Carran presented Popiansky with a key to the city.
“We are told that large companies, especially international companies, look for places that are known for their diversity and inclusiveness when establishing new locations,” said Covington Mayor Sherry Carran. “Covington is gaining a reputation for those very desired characteristics, and I believe it is why Westpack chose Covington for its new manufacturing plant. Westpack locating here is a boost to the momentum we have been experiencing and a boost to our Latonia neighborhood. We are honored to welcome Westpack to Covington.”
Westpack will occupy a 126,000 square feet facility that formerly housed the Overhead Door Company, which closed its location in 2010, on West 43rd Street in Latonia. City Manager Larry Klein said he's thrilled to see a new company open where an old one left.
In addition to bottle decorating and packaging, the facility will be sufficiently machined and equipped to provide short-run decorations for special events and promotions.
“Westpack is in the business of grabbing attention, and they certainly are turning heads here, choosing Northern Kentucky over anywhere in the world,” said Lt. Gov. Abramson. “This is a tremendous day for this area and the Commonwealth as a whole, showing Kentucky makes a perfect home for major companies from across the globe.”
Kentucky’s foreign direct investment continues to grow, with approximately 420 internationally based companies from 30 nations in the Commonwealth, employing nearly 80,000 people.
Gov. Steve Beshear could not attend Monday's announcement as he was in West Liberty presenting a new plan to rebuild that tornado-ravaged community, but he did comment via a press release. “The Commonwealth is thrilled to partner with Westpack to see the creation of more than 60 jobs and an investment of nearly $4.5 million,” said Gov. Beshear. “We’re especially proud that a company from Russia has chosen Kentucky to do business, a testament to the ideal logistics and strategic location here in the Commonwealth.”
How to apply
Popiansky said that job information will be posted on the company's website (www.west-pack.com
). Positions will range from top level, high-tech types to less technical, but he promises that all positions will be more than basic manual labor. A team from Russia will be at the site to assist in the launch but eventually the plant will be run entirely at the local level.
The work environment will be fast-paced. Popiansky said that the company's plants can label two-hundred bottles a minute.
Local leaders react
Other local officials weighed in on the Westpack announcement via news release:
“I am thrilled that Northern Kentucky has a great reputation for a hard-working workforce and high quality of life, not only nationally but internationally,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel, of Taylor Mill. “I welcome Westpack, and look forward to working with our next community partner.”
“I welcome Westpack as the newest member of our business community and the jobs that will be established from the opening of its Covington operations,” said Diane St. Onge, of Lakeside Park. “Our Northern Kentucky region has seen positive economic growth in recent months due in large measure to a responsive and committed business environment, which provides quality workers and quality of life. Westpack’s presence is a testimony to this. We look forward to continuing to provide this outstanding business climate to draw other enterprises to our region as well.”
“We are pleased to welcome Westpack to Northern Kentucky and look forward to the contribution this international company will make to the local economy in job creation and capital investment,” said Steve Arlinghaus, Kenton County judge-executive and member of the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation Executive Committee. “We thank Westpack for its investment in the Northern Kentucky community.”
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Bottles decorated by Westpack on display Monday/RCN