Deal to build new Crown Royal distillery near Corunna in the works for years

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St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold says the work to bring a new $245 million carbon neutral distillery for Crown Royal has been going on for the past three years.

Diageo announced Wednesday it has purchased 400 acres in St. Clair Township at the corner of Highway 40 and Moore Line near Nova Chemicals to build the plant which will produce up to 20 million litres of alcohol annually. It includes a distillery as well as blending and warehousing operations.

It’s part of the company’s plan to be 100 per cent carbon neutral by 2030.

“A low-carbon world is essential for a sustainable future, so I am thrilled to announce our first carbon neutral distillery in Canada as we continue to build momentum in our journey to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030,” said Perry Jones, President, North America Supply for Diageo in a news release.

Sales of Crown Royal have increased 12 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

“Crown Royal is the heart of our whiskey business, as the most valuable whiskey brand. It’s critical when we extend our footprint, that we are committed to creating a more sustainable world,” said Sophie Kelly, Senior Vice President of Whiskies, Diageo North America in a news release. “We are thrilled by this new world-class distillery. It will enable us to drive momentum to 2030 and beyond to elevate Crown Royal as a best-in-class whisky brand that leads innovation in the industry.”

Arnold says he became aware of the possibility of a new plant for St. Clair two years ago. By then, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership had already put in a year of work to get Diageo’s attention.

The township was on the short list for the new plant, and Arnold became involved in the negotiations about six months ago. The decision was made at the end of last year and he’s been waiting for it to become public.

The plant, which expected to take three years to build will employ “dozens” according to the company. Arnold believes it could be as many as 80 people.

Diageo’s St. Clair Distillery will join the company’s existing Canadian manufacturing operations in Amherstburg, Ontario, Gimli, Manitoba, and Valleyfield, Quebec.

Construction is anticipated to begin in the second half of 2022, and the distillery could be operational in 2025.

Arnold expects up to 400 construction jobs will be created, adding the workforce Diageo needs is already here and that was one of the main attractions to come to Lambton County.

“We have a tremendous amount of energy, power, electricity, we have a lot of natural gas around, we have a lot of experience with industrial facilities, which you know, let’s face it, that’s what this will be. And there’s a workforce that is second to none to build this plant and second to none in safety,” Arnold says.

“A lot of the workforce is trained for industrial operations, so and so you’re already 90 per cent of the way there for the people that they will need.”

Officials from SLEP says the new plan fits with the type of investment Lambton is trying to attract.

“We are delighted to welcome Diageo to St. Clair Township. This significant investment will be a tremendous fit with the ongoing diversification of the local economy.

“The carbon neutral facility clearly links with the Sarnia-Lambton area’s efforts to attract new investment that aligns with the drive to a zero-carbon economy, while contributing positively to job growth,” said Judith Morris, Interim CEO, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership in a news release.