LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Spirits maker Beam Inc. relies on Kentucky as its production hub, and now the company is branching out with a corporate presence in bourbon country.
The company responsible for the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbon brands on Monday marked the opening of its Global Business Services Center in an entertainment district in downtown Louisville. It'll be a place for numbers crunching and spread sheets, unlike other Beam operations in Kentucky where workers are mainly part of distilling, aging and bottling operations.
The world's top bourbon producer said it is starting with a corporate staff of 30 employees in Louisville handling duties ranging from finance to human resources for Beam's North American operations. The company said it spent about $1.7 million to retrofit the office space. The center opened last fall in a temporary location in Shepherdsville, Ky.
"We've already recruited top talent from the area," said Tom McPartlin, a Beam vice president of global business services.
The company, based in Deerfield, Ill., employs more than 875 people in Kentucky — its largest concentration as part of a global operation that employs 3,400. Its headquarters near Chicago employs about 400 workers, including sizable teams in sales and marketing, finance and technology.
Beam's presence in Kentucky has focused on the production side, but those operations are starting to diversify in the Bluegrass state — where the flagship Jim Beam brand traces its roots to 1795, when Jacob Beam set up his first still.
Last fall, Beam opened its Global Innovation Center at its Clermont facility south of Louisville. It was part of a $30 million investment that included the opening of a new visitors' center on the grounds of the distillery where the company makes bourbon.
The innovation center has a work force of about 100 that includes chemists and other specialists. The center is responsible for developing new products — a crucial part of the business as spirits makers look to create and mix new flavors to lure more customers.
"I couldn't be more proud that Beam has decided to grow its presence right here in Kentucky," said Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe, a descendant of Jacob Beam.
Noe added that the Beam name has "come a pretty far ways" since his pioneer forefather started making whiskey in Kentucky.
The company said Monday it expects to at least double its workforce at the Louisville business services center in the next 18 months.
"We certainly have room to expand," McPartlin said.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear called the bourbon industry "a key driver of our economy," and said Beam "is on the forefront of that growth."
"We are pleased that Beam is once again raising the profile of one of our home state industries and bringing more jobs to our families in Kentucky," Beshear said in a statement.
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon, and the 4.9 million barrels of aging bourbon in Kentucky outnumber the state's 4.3 million people. In the past two years, Kentucky's bourbon makers have invested more than $230 million in new and expanded production facilities, warehouses, visitors' centers, bottling lines and more.
Beam has manufacturing plants in Clermont, Boston, Frankfort and Loretto in Kentucky.
The company's products lineup also include Sauza tequila, Pinnacle vodka, Canadian Club whisky and Skinnygirl cocktails.
Kentucky is the corporate home to some big players in the spirits business.
Brown-Forman Corp., the company behind such brands as Jack Daniel's, Finlandia and Southern Comfort, is headquartered in Louisville. Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., based in Bardstown, is the maker of Evan Williams bourbon, the second-largest-selling bourbon behind Jim Beam.