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REGIONALREPORT Western

Politicians grab Henderson County a brew

Last summer, the N.C. Department of Commerce asked Andrew Tate, president and CEO of Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, to join Project Fishbowl. An anonymous company was considering the county — along with, he discovered later, about 200 other locations along the East Coast — as the site for a new plant. Tate submitted two possible spots that fit the parameters, which included at least 40 acres zoned for industrial use. He was quickly notified that one site didn’t make the cut. The other, however, was a maybe.

So began the state and county’s combined wooing of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The Chico, Calif.-based company, which was founded in 1980 and is the sixth-largest craft brewer in the U.S., announced in January that it would build its second brewery — featuring a restaurant and gift shop — in Mills River, bringing Henderson high-paying jobs and millions in capital investment. But the story behind the announcement shows how far politicians will go to lure new business.
 
The most pronounced example of this came in October, when Sierra Nevada and government officials discovered that state law prohibited brewers making more than 25,000 barrels of beer a year from serving it on-site. It would have been a deal breaker for Sierra Nevada, whose business model relies on tourism and brewery tastings. But Rep. Chuck McGrady and Sen. Tom Apodaca, who represent Henderson, helped push a bill repealing the restriction through the General Assembly in late November, and Gov. Beverly Perdue signed it into law Dec. 8. There were also concerns regarding the site. It is beautiful — about 90 acres along the French Broad River 12 miles south of Asheville — but bereft of infrastructure, which concerned Sierra Nevada. Henderson applied for and received a federal grant of $750,000, and Golden LEAF, which disburses money from the state’s settlement with tobacco manufacturers, matched it so that roads and sewer and water systems can be extended to the property.

The brewer also received a smattering of incentives from the city, county and state. Despite the different government agencies’ efforts, Tate wasn’t sure Henderson had won the bid until Sierra Nevada made its announcement Jan. 25. Construction should begin later this year and last about two years.

 

$3.8 million

Combined incentives Sierra Nevada will receive from the city, state and county over six years if it meets employment, salary and investment requirements

93

New jobs, with an average annual salary of $41,000, the brewery needs to create to get those incentives. Henderson’s average yearly wage is $32,240

$107.5 million

Capital investment the brewer must make in Henderson — $30 million in property — to receive all the incentives

 

Briefs

ASHEVILLEHomeTrust Banking Partnership will convert from mutual to stock ownership by the second quarter to raise capital. The company is a partnership between several banks in western North Carolina, and its members will have priority to purchase the stock before it is offered to the public.

ASHEVILLE Plasticard Locktech International, a maker of plastic key cards, acquired the hotel key-card division of Canadian competitor LOC International, which sells in-room safes, electronic door locks and mini-bars. Its president will become Plasticard’s executive vice president of hospitality. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

MONTREAT Montreat College will lay off 29 of its 171 employees as the school eliminates three bachelor degrees and its master’s in education.

GRANITE FALLS — Italian-owned Lubrimetal will open a manufacturing plant here, creating 19 jobs and investing $1.9 million within three years. The company makes lubricants for wire drawing, which uses metalworking to produce electrical wiring, wheel spokes and other materials. The average annual wage will be $41,316, higher than Caldwell County’s average of $29,796.

CHEROKEE — Visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway rose 6% in 2011 to about 15.4 million visitors. The 469-mile parkway stretches from here to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.