WilmingtonBiz Magazine

Wilmington Considers Going After Stone Brewing Co.

By J. Elias O'Neal, posted Mar 5, 2014
Stone Brewing Co. operation (Contributed photo)
Wilmington officials are evaluating whether to join a number of cities trying to lure a large beer brewery and distribution facility.
Roger Johnson, Wilmington assistant to the city manager for economic development, said Wednesday that officials with the city’s Brewery Initiative Project Team are evaluating Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Co. recent request for proposals for a new East Coast brewing operation.
The city’s brewing initiative team is a mix of planners and economic officials tasked with finding ways to lure brewing operations to the city, Johnson said. He said the team plans to review Stone Brewing Co.’s requirements for its proposed facility to see if Wilmington can accommodate the project.
Stone Brewing Co. is currently soliciting request for proposals from cities “east of the Mississippi” for a new East Coast brewing operation, Randy Pruitt, senior construction manager with Stone Brewing Co., said Wednesday.
East Coast cities vying for the operation have until March 15 to submit their proposals to the brewery, according to the company’s website. 
Officials are scouting locations that can accommodate a $29 million brewing and distribution operation, with estimates that it will directly create more than 370 new jobs at wages ranging from $12 an hour to $48 an hour.
Stone Brewing Co. is looking for new or existing locations that can accommodate a 130,000-square-foot building, with room to expand within or to an adjacent building to a maximum of 220,000 square feet, according to the company’s request. The site would also need to accommodate the brewery’s hospitality and retail operations, including an indoor and outdoor bar, kitchen, retail center and outdoor beer garden.
Pruitt said officials were looking to establish the operation “as soon as possible,” adding that once potential sites have been narrowed down, company officials plan to meet with economic officials and visit their sites. 
Besides publicizing the request on its website, the company has also notified various state economic and commerce officials about the brewery plans, including the N.C. Department of Commerce, Pruitt said.
Kim Genardo, a spokeswoman with the N.C. Department of Commerce, said Wednesday that state economic officials do not discuss prospective industrial inquiries or clients looking to establish operations in the state.
Pruitt said Asheville, Charlotte and Greensboro have been actively courting the brewery’s operation to their cities, with Charlotte and Greensboro residents even establishing Facebook pages touting their city’s brew culture and points of attraction as reasons for bringing the operation to their communities.
Pruitt said his office is receiving numerous calls up and down the East Coast about the operation.
“I’m getting about 30 phone calls a day,” Pruitt said. “Once we start getting the submittals, we’ll have a better idea of what sites are going to work.”
Stone Brewing Co. specializes in number of IPAs, pale ales and porter brews, including its year-round brews of Stone Pale Ale and Lucky Basardt.
The company, which employs nearly 900 people, has also been growing rapidly – with revenue surging from $48 million in 2009 to $135 million in 2013, according to the company’s website. 
City officials are paying closer attention to the needs of brewery operators after seeing an increase in independent and national firms looking at the city, including Atwater – a Detroit-based brewery considering opening its East Coast operation in Wilmington.

The city’s Brewery Initiative Project Team is currently engaged in evaluating the city’s codes and ordinances – some of which make brewing in the central business district and other locations in the city difficult. 
Johnson added the group is also evaluating a new brewery zone designation that will make it easier for beer operators to establish a larger presence in the city.
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