North Carolina is making a push to land another major craft brewer.
Two years after scoring a double victory with the recruitment of New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, North Carolina is among several states now trying to lure Stone Brewing Co. of Southern California, one of the 10 largest craft breweries in the country.
The Escondido, Calif.-based company, founded in 1996, has made public a Request for Proposal in its plans to find a site for an East Coast expansion facility somewhere east of the Mississippi.
The RFP, open to all communities throughout the Eastern U.S., expires Saturday and has generated responses from numerous cities ranging from Facebook page campaigns to songs written about why Stone should choose their particular area.
Andrew Tate, president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, said that while his office wouldn’t confirm whether it has submitted a response to Stone because it does not comment on active projects, “We take every opportunity to compete for businesses that complement the area very seriously, and we take our responsibility to respond very seriously.”
According to a report Wednesday by the beer website Brewbound, an economic development representative with North Carolina’s Department of Commerce is spearheading an effort to develop a state response to Stone’s RFP, in addition to those generated by individual cities. The representative, Dallas Hardenbrook, wouldn’t reveal which specific areas of the state might be included in a proposal to Stone, the article states, but he is working closely with several cities that have expressed interest and might be a good fit.
Hardenbrook added that the presence of other big-name craft breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and New Belgium should act as attraction rather than a deterrent for Stone, but the company may not wish to locate “immediately adjacent” to other breweries.
The craft-beer renaissance in North Carolina is no secret to Stone’s leaders. From 2009 to 2011, three N.C. establishments were named Stone’s “Most Arrogant Bar” in a nationwide competition to find the bar that can sell the most pints of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale and Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, earning special visits from company co-founder and CEO Greg Koch. Barley’s Taproom in nearby Greenville, S.C., has won the past two years.
John Lyda, president of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, said he thinks Stone likely is not looking at Western North Carolina to expand because of the presence of the region’s big three.
“If I was a large brewery I probably wouldn’t want to do it,” said Lyda, vice president and brewmaster at Highland Brewing in Asheville. “I don’t know. Greg (Koch) kind of makes some surprising decisions sometimes, so I don’t know.”
Stone spokeswoman Sabrina Lopiccolo said Thursday the most important factor for the brewery in choosing a location is that it meets the project’s site requirements. The presence of other major breweries “doesn’t really weigh either way” in the decision-making.
“Any cities east of the Mississippi are being considered at this point,” she said. “Our deadline is March 15, and at that time we will look at all the proposals, but we don’t have any preference at this point — it’s all fair game.”
Stone plans to invest $60 million and employ nearly 375 workers during the full five-year build-out, which will include a production brewery, restaurant and distribution center.
Among the site requirements are a 130,000-square-foot facility, with room to expand to 220,000 square feet, and a municipal wastewater facility capable of processing 100,000 gallons a day from the brewery. The site would also need to be within 1 mile of a major freeway/access routes.
Requirements for a proposal response also include a description of why Stone would be “a good fit for this community and this location.”
Places such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Blount County in eastern Tennessee have teamed up with marketing companies in their creative attempts to lure Stone. Community leaders in Myrtle Beach established a Facebook page called “Stone Brewed on the Beach,” which had more than 2,100 Likes as of Thursday, while Blount County — a finalist in the recruitment of Sierra Nevada — hired a musician to write two songs for its pitch to Stone.
Tate joked that “we don’t have a qualified vocalist in the office” for such an effort, though he said the Henderson County group wouldn’t be opposed to engaging companies at such a creative level.
In the end, however, “What I can say is that it’s a very expensive proposition on a project that is still in the very early stages of even collecting information. I think that songs sound like fun, Facebook pages do, too, but they won’t make up for a lack of substance or infrastructure, culture. They can’t outweigh the critical elements and the required elements of the project.”