It looks like downtown Whitesburg, Ky., will soon be home to a legal moonshine distillery, and that’s a good thing. Kentucky has seen recent success with its Bourbon Trail drawing thousands of visitors to the state each year, and it stands to reason that eastern Kentucky could reap similar success with its most famous – and infamous – alcoholic beverage.
Not only will the new distillery add more to the local tax base and create new jobs, but it will also draw tourism dollars into Whitesburg, renovate an historic downtown building, and the distillery owner, Colin Fultz, has plans to keep local as much of his operation as possible: “We’re wanting to make a flavored moonshine using locally-grown fruit, corn, everything that we can get local, and hopefully that’s what’s going to help the economy and let everybody that’s in the county benefit that wants to.”
Fultz has tapped into something that we need to see more of in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia: A change in the way we think about economic development. Fultz isn’t trying to bring something into the region; he’s drawing and building from assets that already exist. He’s using those assets to create opportunity for himself, but he’s also thinking about the overall economic health of his community, and making plans to become a support for that community through his business.
We need more entrepreneurs thinking like Fultz, and we need more local leaders taking risks to support them. After all, the region is experiencing a major shift right now, and taking a little risk through this process may just be what keeps us moving forward.