When it comes to top-notch drinks, Kentucky can claim two that are at the top of the list — bourbon and Louisville’s water. It’s a message that Kentuckians have taken on the road.
I had a unique opportunity Tuesday night to mix and mingle with Dallas business people as part of an initiative to present Kentucky’s message that it’s a great place to do business.
And what better way to make an impression on folks in the Lone Star state than to share our Kentucky bourbon and Louisville’s water.
The event was hosted by Kentucky United, a consortium of economic developers from government and business. I represented Louisville Water Company, which is among the Kentucky United partners who journeyed to Dallas from all corners of Kentucky. The goal was to highlight assets the state offers businesses, including a strong employment base.
The partners had a chance to meet and talk with more than 15 business contacts from the Dallas area. A key focus was on Kentucky’s recent business successes, including the fact that more than 300 announcements about business growth in the commonwealth have occurred in the past year. Our Dallas associates learned that Kentucky’s governor wants to make the state a hub for manufacturing and that the Kentucky United partners are eager to bring jobs to their communities.
Kentucky is building a case for being an attractive place to locate a business — but the commonwealth already has cemented the fact that it’s the place for bourbon. The event in Dallas featured a bourbon tasting with three flights of Maker's Mark — accompanied by comments from the always entertaining Bill Samuels Jr., whose father started the legendary brand.
A bourbon tasting wouldn't be complete without water to complete the popular pairing of bourbon and branch. For for this event, Kentucky United didn’t just bring the bourbon, the group also served another of the state's liquid assets — Louisville's tap water.
Yes, I am proud to say that Louisville Water actually sent glass containers filled with our trademarked tap water to Dallas for the event. Guests were amazed that we actually brought water, and they were curious as to why. One guest said to me: "Really, that's your water? That's impressive!"
Water is a major asset in Kentucky — and it’s not true in many parts of the country, including Dallas, where conservation measures are as abundant as the water supply in Louisville. For instance, Louisville Water has enough reserve capacity to double production almost overnight — enough to accommodate 35 auto manufacturing facilities. (Something Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin would love to see!)
I had the chance to address the attendees and explain Louisville Water's connection to the bourbon industry. The utility began as Kentucky's first public water provider in 1860, and some of the earliest customers were distillers. Today some of those distillers remain on our list of top customers. Louisville Water is an integral part of Kentucky's signature industry — from the barrel to the bottle to the important message of social responsibility.
Today, Louisville Water provides more than 115 million gallons of water daily to nearly 1 million people in the Louisville region, including 23,400 commercial and industrial customers. Our Dallas guests were interested to learn facts like those.
A trip like the Kentucky United one matters — especially when I can inform people from beyond the region about facts like those. The trip also gave the partners a chance to make connections with business people who might not have an immediate opportunity for a business lead in Kentucky — but they need to know what's available. And we learned from our Texas guests as well. Their state, like Kentucky, is dealing with some of the same issues, including the need for a well-prepared, readily available work force.
The trip also was beneficial for the Kentucky United partners from across the state who got to learn about the assets others bring to the table. What may not work in Louisville could work in Corbin, Somerset or Paducah. So the Kentucky United trip had great value in many ways.
In fact, Tuesday’s bourbon event confirms that, even in a place where water scarcity should be top of mind, it's easy to take the resource for granted. It was a very warm spring evening in Dallas, and with this event held on an outdoor patio, guests were happy to get a cold glass of water. When they learned we brought the water from more than 800 miles away, they were curious and asked questions, which gave me the great opportunity to tell them Louisville Water’s story of abundance, affordability and high quality.
"The water scene in Dallas isn't as good," one guest at the Kentucky United event told me. "I can't imagine us talking about water like this."
Statements like that prove that water is a crucial liquid asset. And I’m glad I had the opportunity to share Louisville Water’s story.
Kelley Dearing Smith is vice president of communications and marketing for the Louisville Water Company.