New Belgium Brewing Co. is coming toAsheville. At an April 5 press conference at the Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Bev Perdue and New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan said the Fort Collins, Colo.-based company will build a brewery and distribution center at the former Western Carolina Livestock Market site on Craven Street. The brewery will invest more than $175 million over seven years and create more than 150 jobs.
“We picked you: We picked Asheville,” Jordan told the officials, media reps and exuberant beer lovers gathered under a large tent. Key factors in the decision were the city's proximity to East Coast markets, water quality and community commitment to sustainability.
Less than a month ago, Asheville City Council rezoned the roughly 20-acre site from “urban village” to the less restrictive “river district.” A portion of the property is a designated brownfield that will require remediation.
New Belgium, the third-largest U.S. craft brewery, plans to break ground early next year, with production beginning in 2015. Although hiring won’t start until late in 2014, the average annual salary will exceed $50,000. A $1 million grant from the state and more than $12 million in tax incentives from the city and Buncombe County helped lure New Belgium, based on the company's creating 130 jobs and investing $115 million over five years. Construction and the use of local suppliers and vendors will support many additional jobs. The company is 41 percent employee-owned.
“I've been hearing about and watching that space across the river for six months,” says Ben Mixson, co-owner of the White Duck Taco Shop on nearby Roberts Street. “New Belgium seems like a great company, and we will love having them as neighbors. I'm looking forward to drinking their beer fresh.”
The local beer community has been equally enthusiastic. “The Brewers Alliance,” says President Tim Schaller, “welcomes New Belgium. They’ll be a great economic asset and should bring in an influx of beer tourists. Our responsibility as brewers now is to make great beer and continue to educate people about it.”
Asheville Brewing Co. President Mike Rangel echoes those sentiments, saying, “We are thrilled to have another incredible craft brewery move into the neighborhood. New Belgium has handled their site selection very well and … kept us informed during the process.” In January, Sierra Nevada, the nation's No. 2 craft brewer, chose a Mills River site for its second brewery.
Jordan, meanwhile, stressed her company’s commitment to working with local brewers in “a spirit of collaboration” and “sharing our groovy toys” (a reference to New Belgium's research-and-development equipment). In addition, she noted, the company will work with the city and the county on things like roads, bike lanes, greenways and water management consistent with the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan.
Schaller, who owns Wedge Brewing Co., notes: “I opened my business in the River Arts District because it’s funky and affordable for artists. I hope we can preserve this area and keep growing it as an arts district.”
— Asheville-based freelance writer Anne Fitten Glenn can be reached at email@example.com.