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Nearest Green and Jack Daniel distilleries announce diversity partnership

In this historic photo, Nathan “Nearest” Green’s son, George, sits next to Jack Daniel at the Lynchburg Distillery. The two companies have partnered to ensure diversity in American whiskey making moving forward. {Historic Photo}

In an unprecedented move, two famous distilleries with Lynchburg roots have joined forces to increase diversity in the American whiskey industry. In a press release on Thursday, the two Tennessee distilleries announced the formation of the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative.

Both companies will support it equally with an initial $5 million combined pledge to launch the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships and establish the Business Incubation Program (BIP), focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs. This joint initiative will be guided by an advisory board with members from both organizations. 

Motlow State College worked with leaders from both companies for the past year to develop a curriculum for the Nearest Green School of Distilling. The STEM based and employable skills focused program has passed Motlow State requirements and is now awaiting approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to begin moving toward accreditation by the institutions accrediting body SACSCOC. The certificate program may be offered as early as Fall 2021.

The program will offer apprenticeships specifically to African Americans already in the whiskey industry, who are wanting to become a head distiller, head of maturation or production manager. The inaugural apprentices have already been identified and will begin shadowing at top distilleries throughout the country. 

The Initiative will also work as an incubation program for African American entrepreneurs and offer mentorship in all areas of the distilling business, including access to top marketing firms, branding executives, expanded distribution networks and other assets and opportunities to grow their spirits businesses.

“Generally, when companies talk about the need to improve diversity, few immediate action steps follow,” said Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey CEO Fawn Weaver.

“Our group is different. We are doers, and we all agreed to work together to improve diversity in our industry, and specifically, a way to get African Americans into top positions within our industry. Nearest Green taught Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee whiskey and we’re incredibly proud our companies are joining forces to further their legacies of excellence, and to make distilling and the whiskey industry we love more diverse.”

It’s a sentiment that Brown-Forman officials echoed.

“Given our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, I am thrilled we are coming together in this way today,” said Brown-Forman President and CEO Lawson Whiting. The Brown-Forman Corporation is the parent company of Jack Daniel’s.

“This collaboration allows the extraordinary friendship of Nearest and Jack, and the hope they embodied during racially divided times in our country’s history, to help us advance the next generation of African American leaders in our industry.”

For more information, check out the Initiative website by clicking here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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