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Diageo Distillery Construction Passes Halfway Mark

This bird's eye photo shows Diageo construction as of February (Photo ©Eric Crossan).Work on the Diageo USVI rum distillery and barrel warehouse in St. Croix has passed the halfway construction milestone and is on schedule to become operational by January, the company announced Monday.
Diageo also announced the appointment of U.S. Virgin Islanders to four key positions at the distillery, in addition to other strategic hires.
“Construction of the distillery in St. Croix is moving at an impressive pace, and we look forward to an on-schedule completion of the project,” said David Cutter, chairman of Diageo USVI. “The diligence, dedication and hard work of the local construction workers have enabled us to reach this exciting milestone. We all look forward to the day when Captain Morgan will truly be able to call St. Croix home.”
Diageo, the international spirits giant, is building the distillery on St. Croix as part of the territorial government’s effort to build the V.I. rum industry in order to enhance revenues and create a steady economy.
Diageo contracts with a Puerto Rican distiller to create the rum it markets as Captain Morgan’s. Three years ago the company announced it was going to let the contract expire and would find a place to build its own distillery to produce Captain Morgan’s. The liquor giant looked at several foreign countries, including Guatemala and Jamaica, before negotiating a deal with the V.I. government to locate its plant on St. Croix.
The plant is being financed by bonds backed by the increase in rum cover-over revenues that will be generated by the sale of Captain Morgan’s in the states. Ground was broken on the site a year ago, on May 6, 2009.
“We are also very proud to say that this project has consistently exceeded safety goals,” said Cutter. “With such a complex and large site, this is a true accomplishment….”
Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. said, “We thought Diageo would be a good partner to the U.S. Virgin Islands when we signed our 30-year agreement almost two years ago. Since then, Diageo has not only achieved all of their construction milestones, they have also met all of our expectations. They are creating jobs using local contractors for work at both the distillery and warehouse, investing in improving our environment and contributing to our community organizations. We are delighted that construction is ahead of schedule and look forward to seeing the first of many barrels of Captain Morgan’s to be produced on St. Croix.”
Construction of the distillery began in August 2009. In addition, Diageo USVI has committed that at least 80 percent of the full-time employees at the distillery will be from the territory. The company expects to use a total of about 60 full-time employees to operate and manage the distillery.
To date, Diageo USVI has named six strategic hires, four of whom are native residents, to fill the positions of human resources director, maintenance team lead, quality manager, executive administrative assistant, finance manager, and engineering manager.
The distillery also will retain local businesses that provide maintenance and other business services to the facility, creating jobs and business opportunities for the local economy.
In recognition of the safety record of the future distillery site, a $6,000 check was presented to the St. Croix Special Olympics on behalf of the all of the construction workers who have contributed to the building of the distillery.
“This check signifies a perfect six-month safety record and is a tribute to the safety ethic of over 300 construction employees,” said Tony Conboye, process project engineer from the PM Group, which is acting as engineer on the project.
Once in operation, the distillery will have the capacity to distill up to 20 million proof gallons of Captain Morgan’s rum per year and is expected to generate an estimated $130 million in new tax revenue for the V.I. government.
Beginning in 2012, the distillery will supply all rum used to make Captain Morgan’s branded products for the United States. Captain Morgan’s is the second best-selling rum in the world.

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