In Attracting Agribusiness, Albemarle Could Welcome West Coast Brewery

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

April 7, 2014

In an effort to attract more agribusiness to Albemarle County, one major West Coast brewery is considering Central Virginia locations to move east.

Stone Brewing Company is considering sites along the East Coast, and it could join the many breweries in Central Virginia.

"Our market seems to be able to support all of them," said Josh Hunt, co-owner of Beer Run in Charlottesville. "So I think there's actually space for a couple more."

Adding a brewery like Stone to Central Virginia would be a huge draw, perhaps spanning internationally.

"It would put us on the national and world map, really, as being a first-rate area for breweries," Hunt said.

Albemarle County supervisor Ann Mallek recently asked people at a town hall meeting their thoughts about a brewery in Crozet. One possible site is near the intersection of Route 250 and Old Trail Drive.

This stems from the county's analysis of target industries. The study reports that agribusiness is prime for Central Virginia for a number of factors, including accessibility to interstates and railways.

"The state has asked us specifically if we had opportunities to submit sites for some of these expanding enterprises, enterprises that, for example, want to have an East Coast presence," said Susan Stimart, the county's economic development facilitator, without naming Stone as the company. "We won't know the name, but they'll give us general parameters of what the industry is looking for."

Not only would new agribusiness bring added tax revenue, but potentially hundreds of new jobs.

"they're what we call career-ladder jobs, jobs that go beyond a basic minimum wage," Stimart said.

Beer Run is only about 15 miles from one proposed site. The owners say any addition of a major brewing company can only add buzz to the local economy.

"I think it'll be a great opportunity for these breweries to collaborate and really learn from each other," Hunt said. "I would be very excited. I'm excited for the potential of this."

The county's industry analysis stretched beyond Albemarle and includes surrounding localities. Stimart said even if Albemarle County is turned down for another Central Virginia location, there's still a benefit.

"If it stays within the region, that's a success for everyone, because that industry's presence in the region helps reinforce the strength of that industry cluster," she said.

A spokeswoman for Stone said the company hasn't made a decision, and officials are still reviewing sites along the East Coast to see which would be appropriate.

Stone plans on beginning construction on an East Coast facility this year.

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