LEWISTON — The local plant formerly known as White Rock will cease bottling by the first quarter of next year and the facility might be sold, Beam Inc. said Thursday.
Beam officials said bottling of their Pinnacle Vodka and Calico Jack Rum brands will be transitioned from Maine to Kentucky, a move that will affect more than 100 employees at White Rock.
The reason? Efficiency, according to a Beam news release. More than two-thirds of the company's global annual volume is produced in Kentucky. The move will be done in phases, the company said, as bottling operations are moved to a recently expanded facility in Frankfort, Ky.
As of Thursday afternoon, 160 people were employed at the Lewiston facility, a Beam spokesperson said. The employees had been told of the move.
The news came as a blow to the local economy and to local employees who, in April 2012, were told Beam expected to keep bottling work in Lewiston. Beam bought the Pinnacle and Calico Jack brands and other assets for $650 million.
A company spokesman called the move out of Lewiston "a logical step."
"In reviewing ways to enhance its production efficiencies and best integrate the brand into our supply chain at Beam, we have determined that consolidating our bottling operations over time is a logical step,” said Ian Gourlay, Beam’s senior vice president of global operations and supply chain.
“Our technologically advanced facility in Frankfort, Ky., has the capability to absorb the production and bottling activity currently performed in Lewiston, as well as the potential to accommodate higher volumes in the future.”
With Pinnacle and Calico heading south, nothing will be left to sustain the Lewiston facility. Although the company used to have more than a dozen liquor brands, it sold them off individually, before and after the Beam sale last year, Beam spokeswoman Paula Erickson said.
In the news release sent out late Thursday afternoon, company officials acknowledged the workers at the Lewiston facility.
“While the transition of Pinnacle’s bottling from Maine into Kentucky won’t be complete until the end of (the first quarter) of 2014, we wanted to provide as much up-front notice as possible to our talented workforce in Lewiston,” Gourlay said.
“It’s important to underscore that this decision is in no way a reflection on their dedication and hard work," he said. "We are committed to working with them to ease the transition as these plans progress. We will also review alternative options for the Lewiston plant, including potential sale of the facility.”