North Carolina Courting Stone Brewing

Should North Carolina successfully court Stone Brewing Co. in its efforts to expand east, the Tar Heel State would officially play host to four of country’s biggest craft breweries’ second production facilities.

Oskar Blues of Lyons, Colo. brewed the inaugural batch of beer at its Brevard facility back in December of 2012, while Sierra Nevada came online in Mills River toward the end of last year. In nearby Asheville, New Belgium expects to break ground on its new brewing facility this spring.

Now, economic developers in the state are hoping to lure the Escondido, Calif.-based Arrogant Bastards.

Dallas Hardenbrook, an economic development representative with the state’s department of commerce who is coordinating the recruiting effort, said he is doing his best to develop a state response to Stone’s request for proposal (RFP), which has generated interest from a number of states throughout the southeast.

Hardenbrook would not disclose what specific areas of the state might be included in a proposal to Stone, but that he is working closely with as many cities as he can that have expressed interest and might be a good fit.

He added the presence of other big name craft breweries should help the state’s push for Stone, rather than hurt it.

“A lot of times when you already have a cluster of firms in the state, it can work as an attraction to others,” he said. “They may not wish to locate immediately adjacent to other breweries, but we’re hoping it’ll act as an attraction.”

Part of that attraction might be hefty tax incentives. In 2012, the city of Asheville issued New Belgium a seven-year grant based on the brewery’s investment of $175 million.

At the time, the city issued a statement that read, in part, “Based on that investment the city will realize approximately $879,000 in tax revenues and New Belgium will receive approximately $3,500,000 in a self-funded tax grant from the City.”

Hardenbrook added that comparable incentives for Stone Brewing could be part of the state’s ploy to bring the company in.

“That’s quite possible. As we get down the road, we will look into that,” he said. “Incentives always play a role in attracting major investments.”

Thomas Johnson, executive vice president with Advantage West Economic Development Group, which helped bring New Belgium to town, said it’s too early to tell what those possible incentives might look like.

“Until contact is made, prospective incentives don’t even enter the picture,” he said.

Johnson was not with Advantage West at the time of New Belgium’s arrival.

Stone Brewing, in placing its RFP online, made public its intent to move east. This created a “unique” situation, said Hardenbrook, in that specific cities — like Greensboro, Charlotte, and Wilmington — have been able to invite Stone separately from the state’s effort.

Despite that fragmentation, he said bringing Stone to N.C. would still need to be a joint effort.

In January of last year, Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville and Buncombe County, expounded a bit further on how his city was able to lure New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.

“You have to sell who you are as a community first and then you sell what you have,” he said at the time. “Decision makers and owners of breweries are personally invested in these communities. They want to help build the community.”

He added that the five key considerations when assisting, growing, and attracting breweries are bottom-line support, talent, recruiting, intangibles, and differentiators.

Teague could not immediately be reached for comment.

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