Richmond lands major West Coast craft brewer

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Photo courtesy Governor of Virginia

Richmond beat out cities in more than 20 other states to land Stone Brewing Co.’s East Coast production facility. The San Diego-based brewery says it will invest $74 million in the city, creating more than 288 jobs.

The facility, to be located in the Greater Fulton neighborhood in the city’s East End, will include a 200,000-square-foot brewery and distribution center, restaurant, gardens and retail store. The brewery is expected to be in operation in late 2015 or early 2016.

In its first year, Stone Brewing will produce approximately 120,000 barrels of beer, almost doubling the barrels of beer produced by Virginia’s craft brewers last year (about 130,000).   Besides Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke were top-five finalists for the project.

“We put all in to get this project,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during an early October news conference at the Executive Mansion where Stone Brewing beer was served.

The state’s incentives package for Stone Brewing includes a $5 million Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant and $250,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, depending on the company’s procurement and use of Virginia-grown products.  The company also will receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program and employee training funding and services from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

The value of the city’s incentive package was even bigger — more than $30 million. It includes $23 million in bonds for the facility’s construction, $8 million in bonds for Stone Brewing’s restaurant and beer garden and $2 million in grants. 

But incentives weren’t the only attraction, says Steve Wagner, Stone Brewing’s president and co-founder. “The logistics, the water supply, and things like that go into the equation as well, but for us it’s more the gut [feeling] and being in a cool place,” he says.

Wagner started Stone Brewing in 1996 with CEO Greg Koch. Back then, the operation included Wagner, who brewed the beer; Koch, who sold it and another employee who delivered it.

“It was not easy in those times,” says Wagner, whose company now bills itself as the 10th largest craft brewer in the U.S. “I think sometimes people get the impression that we’re an overnight success. It’s been 18 years — and working really hard — to get to where we are today.”

Stone Brewing ranked No. 3,015 this year on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing, private companies in the U.S.  It plans to expand beyond the states, opening the first American-owned craft brewery in Europe by 2016.

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