April 9, 2009 — Shovels will go in the ground in early May as work begins on the Captain Morgan rum distillery on St. Croix, bringing with it 200 to 300 construction jobs, and then 40 to 70 jobs for people operating the plant.
The Coastal Zone Management Commission approved the request by Diageo, the parent company of Captain Morgan, to develop the distillery on land leased on the northwest corner of the St. Croix Renaissance Park, adjacent to the Melvin Evans Highway. The Virgin Islands Government is financing the construction of the plant but will ultimately recoup the financing and take in nearly $3 billion in remitted rum excise taxes over the 30-year term of Diageo's agreement with the government.
Wednesday's approval came a month after the company made its formal presentation to the commission, describing the measures Diageo will take to make the plant environmentally friendly. (See: "Diageo Lays Out Green Plan at CZM Hearing, Gets Public Support.")
There was very little discussion of the project Wednesday, said community activist George Flores, who was at the meeting. After CZM staff read a report suggesting approval of the project with a few minor conditions, there were only a handful of additional questions before the commission voted 3-0 to approve.
Conditions included that the company build a fence around an 18th century cemetery on the property, and that the company get all necessary permits before beginning construction.
Building the plant will create two phases of employment. Construction itself will require between 200 and 300 workers. In the second phase, the plant will need 40 to 70 full time employees, said Rob Irby, Diageo's project manager. At least 80 percent of those jobs will go to Virgin Islands residents, company officials have said.
It is that promise of future employment that brought Flores out in support of the project, he said.
"It's good for St. Croix, it's good for the Virgin Islands, it creates jobs for our people," he said.
And the workers directly hired by Diageo are just the beginning, he added.
"Somebody's got to feed those workers," he said, pointing out that he plant will operate around the clock. "Some of our vendors that sell food will make a little money too. I support anything that creates jobs for the people of St. Croix."
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