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A gift to our town

Jennifer Stiefel A distillery that produces one of the most popular bourbons in the Northwest is not the first place you think of when scheduling a school field trip. But the president and founder of Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor has opened the doors of her homegrown business to homeschooled students as well as classes from public schools. Jennifer Stiefel has three children enrolled in the Peninsula School District and uses her background in elementary education to turn the sweet smell of her warehouse into a learning laboratory. Her business and her expertise have become a valuable resource for the Peninsula School District. “There is a great deal of science and math involved in the distillery industry,” she explained. “For the kids, we focus on science, math and the chemistry of distilling. We cover everything from the farmers who produce the ingredients we use to the essential oils that are produced as a by-product of distilling. We are not your typical manufacturing company.” Heritage Distilling recently partnered with Puget Sound Community College near Olympia to establish a degree program in distilling. The program, Jennifer said, will provide two benefits. It will allow more people to learn about the industry so that the graduates can open their own business. “Plus, it will generate our own workforce.”

Erin O’Neil In 15 short months, the career and life readiness counselor at Peninsula High School has created programs that will impact students and the community for generations. Erin O’Neil has created programs that have established career pathways in careers from technology to forklift driver. She has established partnerships with government agencies and the private sector, she said, to give students “options after they walk across the stage at their high school graduation.” Erin moved to Western Washington from her home in Iowa with a clear vision of what she wanted to establish in the Peninsula District. College, she explained, is not the right path for every student. She has also been responsible for implementing a program that provides college credits to students who complete regular core efficiency courses in high school.

Heritage Distilling is best known for its Brown Sugar Bourbon. In addition to its flagship location in Gig Harbor and one in Eugene, Oregon, the company is in the process of opening a series of tasting rooms in the Western Washington communities of Ballard, Capitol Hill, Tumwater and Roslyn.

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“Our goals are different than they were just a few years ago. The bar has been moved,” Erin explained. “The last thing you want to see is somebody graduating from college with $80,000 in debt and only qualified for a job that pays $40,000 per year.” Courtesy photo by Joshua Bessex

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December 2017 Gig Harbor Living Local  
December 2017 Gig Harbor Living Local  

December 2017 Gig Harbor Living Local