McAuliffe touts new distillery planned for Williamsburg on Wednesday

Virginia Gazette

Gov. Terry McAuliffe got a taste of happy hour Wednesday afternoon as he touted a state grant that helped lure a distillery to Williamsburg.

The state kicked in $50,000 that was matched by the City of Williamsburg to help get Copper Fox Distillery to open a new operation off Capitol Landing Road.

The business, which doesn't have a planned opening date, will create 28 new jobs and use all of its grain from Virginia crops, according to owner Rick Wasmund.

McAuliffe, like his predecessor former Gov. Bob McDonnell, has made promotion of Virginia wines and spirits a priority has he seeks to help diversify the state's economy.McAuliffe said cuts in military spending have hit Virginia defense industries hard and that the state needed to become less reliant on federal dollars.

McAuliffe said industries fed by agriculture and forestry account for $70 billion of economic activity and 415,000 jobs.

"It's not easy being governor," McAuliffe said. "I have had to drink all over the globe to close these deals," McAuliffe said jokingly."

Wasmund said the new campus at 901 Capitol Landing road will include nine buildings, one of which he and his family intends to live on. He said his company is making a nearly $2 million investment to launch the distillery, which will include a site for tastings and vending bottles of the spirits.

The buildings are expected to total 30,000 square feet, when completed. "I think being a distiller, bringing an adult beverage bringing that to people is a special honor," Wasmund said. "I take it very seriously. We will always be an advocate for responsible use of alcohol and for people drinking better alcohol," he joked.

"In an area that has many tourist attractions, you will be a very strong magnet for people across the country to see Williamsburg," said Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News.

Under terms of the state grant, at least 30 percent of the grains used for the distillery had to come from Virginia sources, according to Secretary of Agriculture and Foresty Todd Haymore, though Wasmund's business model will go beyond that.

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