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Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky selects Charles George as new executive director

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky (WSWK) have announced Charles George is its new executive director, putting his many years of policy experience to work in guiding the organization in Frankfort and beyond.

The group also released the findings of an economic impact report on jobs, payroll, and tax revenue generated by the wholesale and retail tiers of Kentucky’s alcoholic beverage industry.

Authored by University of Louisville Economics Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Coomes, the report finds that the wholesale distribution and retail sales of alcohol in Kentucky collectively support more than 16,900 jobs, pay $537 million dollars in wages to Kentuckians across 102 of the Commonwealth’s 120 counties, and combined, generate more than $261 million in alcohol tax revenues to support Kentucky’s roads, schools, and public safety.

Overall, the wholesale and distribution of alcohol in Kentucky is a $1.2 billion industry that includes sales, marketing, and delivery operations. Together, Kentucky’s 45 licensed wine, spirits, and beer wholesalers and distributors, which are largely locally-owned, family businesses, account for approximately 2,300 jobs, with an average pay of $69,800 — more than double Kentucky’s per capita income.

“While Kentucky’s wholesalers and distributors often operate behind the scenes, a closer look at the data show just how meaningful these businesses are to the economics of the alcohol industry and to Kentucky in terms of jobs, economic growth, and revenue compliance,” said Coomes, the study’s author. “Without wholesalers, the Commonwealth would likely lose substantial revenue and see significant risks introduced to the supply chain.”

In FY2019, Kentucky collected over $147.1 million in excise (volume-based) and ad valorem (value-based) taxes on alcohol at the wholesale level. Kentucky wholesalers and distributors help ensure accurate accounting of alcohol produced, transported, and sold within Kentucky. In addition, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers pay additional taxes and licensure fees to local and county governments.

The report, which also looked at the effects of loosening the current regulatory system to allow for alcohol sales outside of the three-tier system, found that Kentucky’s homegrown wholesalers and retailers could lose out on millions of dollars of revenue each year, putting businesses and jobs at risk. Furthermore, consumer protections provided by the system – from limiting underage access to preventing counterfeit and tainted products – could be severely weakened.

“Kentucky consumers have access to more than 36,000 different alcoholic products from around the world, thanks in large part to wholesalers and distributors,” said George. “As Kentucky’s wine and spirits industry continues to grow and evolve, our wholesalers and distributors play a vital role in ensuring Kentuckians get the products they want while protecting consumer safety.

“I look forward to sharing their stories and the positive impact they have on their communities, and working with policymakers to find new solutions for growing every tier of our industry.”

George, a veteran policy advisor and advocate in Kentucky, spent more than six years as the lobbyist and general counsel for the Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants before joining WSWK. He assumes the role from Dan Meyer, who led the group for 34 years, building the group into a well-regarded and influential player in Frankfort.

A graduate of Centre College and the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, George will lead advocacy and operational efforts to raise the profile of the industry and advance policies in Frankfort to support WSWK membership.

“We are immensely grateful for Dan’s leadership over the years and wish him well in retirement,” said Pete McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Kentucky. “With Charles at the helm, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky remain in sure hands as the industry looks to capitalize on new opportunities created by the bourbon boom, new technologies, and changing consumer preferences.

“We are thrilled to have such a talented advocate leading our efforts and look forward to a successful 2020 legislative session.”

From Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky

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