The first tenant to move into the McHenry Business Park could be Free State Cooperage LLC (FSC), a manufacturer of custom-crafted American oak whiskey and wine barrels. The Garrett County commissioners signed a resolution on Dec. 3, selling Lot 16 in the park to the company for $60,000.
Free State Cooperage is owned by Alice Blayne-Allard of Annapolis. She is executive director of the Annapolis Group of Liberal Arts Colleges. Blayne-Allard is also principal and owner of The Local Source, a public relations and marketing company, and The Phoenix Group ABA, a nonprofit management firm providing executive leadership to nonprofit organizations. In addition, she is a member of HART for Animals Inc.’s governing board of directors.
In 2016, Blayne-Allard won the 4 Rural Success Power of Possibilities Award and the Maryland Women’s Business Center Award.
According to her local project manager, Eric Robison, the 5,600-square-foot cooperage is expected to be completed by the first part of March. “There are already contracts for the barrels,” he said. The building will include a retail shop, which should be up and running by late next summer, Robison added. “When fully operational, Free State Cooperage will have 10 full-time employees."
The company will work with distillers and vintners to develop barrel lines that meet their specific needs and flavor profiles.
“We are more than a barrel manufacturer,” Blayne-Allard states in a Maryland Women’s Business Center YouTube video. “At Free State Cooperage, our vision is to liberate artisans and craft distillers one barrel at a time, to build the ‘Made in Maryland’ brand and to restore the free state to its rightful place as a national leader in rye whiskey production.”
FSC is a member of the Associated Cooperage Industries of America, the Craft Coopers Guild and Maryland Distillers Guild. The Maryland guild is “a community of craft producers, dedicated to developing quality spirits and delivering a dynamic experience for visitors.”
The 125-acre McHenry Business Park is located along Bumble Bee Road adjacent to the Garrett County Airport.
In May, Garrett County government entered into an agreement with the Maryland Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Commerce to construct a 20,000-square foot spec building on Lot 1 in the park.
“Bids for construction will go out the first part of next year,” said Hough. “A groundbreaking will be held sometime in the spring.”
“Construction could start, perhaps, tomorrow,” county Economic Development Director Mike Hough said.
Upon completion, the spec building will be available for lease to one or more tenants.