The state announced Thursday that Horse Soldier Farms has received approval for tax incentives totaling $29.9 million to build its bourbon distillery and tourism complex.

The approval for those incentives came from a recommendation from the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and received approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

That information was part of Governor Andy Beshear’s press announcement that Horse Soldier Farms plans to create more than 50 jobs with its $200 million project.

Horse Soldier Bourbon CEO John Koko was quoted as saying, “Horse Soldier Bourbon is excited to start this new phase of work with the local community in Somerset and Pulaski County. We understand both the importance of building a good team and the value of finding a place to call home. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the rolling hills of Kentucky, there’s one thing we’ve seen time and time again: You’re only as good as the company you keep.”

Koko is expected to be a speaker this Saturday at Somernites Cruise as part of its memorial program marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The announcement also comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the deployment of the Horse Soldier team – a group of Green Berets that were forced to use horses for transportation due to the rough terrain – into Afghanistan.

After retiring from service, many members of that Horse Soldier team went on to found a bourbon company. Its current distillery operates in Columbus, Ohio, but plans have been in the works since 2019 to bring the operation to Pulaski County.

The company bought the former Waitsboro Hills Golf Course and have expanded the initial project from only a distillery to a complex that is planned to include a 4,600-square-foot activity center; a 5,000 person-capacity amphitheater; a 500 person-capacity outdoor event space; an adventure center; a 3,200-square-foot wedding chapel; a 60-key luxury lodge and 20 cabins; and a retail village.

In the state’s announcement, the President and CEO of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA), Chris Girdler, was quoted as saying, “It has been an absolute honor to get to know these true American heroes and a privilege to call them friends. They continue to live out their legendary journey by creating an iconic and symbolic brand that is known throughout the world. We are so grateful that they selected Somerset and Pulaski County as their new headquarters and we welcome them home.”

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said, “So much of my vision for Somerset has been about changing the expectation for what people believe is possible. By doing that, we’ve been able to generate excitement in this community that builds every day, because we’re telling our story and showing the world how special this community truly is. I am forever grateful to the Horse Soldier Bourbon team for embracing that excitement and choosing to marry their legendary story with ours. Somerset is home to so many signature Kentucky experiences. I am thrilled bourbon is now one of them and cannot wait to share in the extraordinary experience Horse Soldier Farms will bring to our community.”

In discussing the state’s tax incentives, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry said, “This administration continues to support tourism development because we understand the direct economic value that our industry brings to both rural and urban communities throughout the commonwealth. This new project will expand one of Kentucky’s most sought after tourism experiences to Southeastern Kentucky, bringing bourbon and additional revenue to the Lake Cumberland region.”

Governor Beshear said, “Kentucky’s bourbon industry continues to expand, bringing quality jobs and tourism dollars to communities in every corner of the commonwealth. Today’s announcement further reinforces our commitment to ensuring Kentucky is a top tourism destination, but also a premiere location for businesses to grow and expand. I want to thank Horse Soldier Bourbon and the leaders in the Somerset community for being an integral part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that Kentucky is a better, brighter place for the future.”

Horse Soldier Farms is scheduled to have a private groundbreaking next month.

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