New Belgium, soybeans and a flashback to 1998

I have two pressing questions today: How did I get on the email list of the United Soybean Board, and is a deal with New Belgium Brewing the latest economic-development incentive package being discussed in closed session by both the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners?

At the moment answers are more forthcoming from the soybean people.

Here are a few things we do know:

There are eight breweries operating in the Asheville cities (and one distillery), and there are a several others in Western North Carolina.

The first Asheville alchemist of hops and barley — in modern times, at least — was Highland Brewing Company. Founded in 1994, its first production room was in the basement below Barley’s Pizza.

New Belgium started as a huge hobby project in Jeff Lebesh’s home basement. He and wife Kim took the leap to commercial beer making in 1991. Now the company employs about 400 in its Fort Collins, Colo., plant.

Denver alt-weekly Westword ran a May 19 story about New Belgium’s plans earlier this year: ” New Belgium has narrowed the [East Coast] search down to about six sites, but doesn’t want to reveal yet in which states they’re located. The new brewery would probably produce most of New Belgium’s lineup, and include a taproom.” (”New Belgium, Maker of Fat Tire, Plans a Second Brewery on the East Coast”).

Both the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners went into closed sessions on Sept. 13 to discuss an economic-development incentive for an undisclosed company.

In 1997, about a year after a court ruling that economic-development incentives did not violate the North Carolina Constitution (Maready v. City of Winston-Salem et al), Asheville and Buncombe revised local policies.

Three years ago, a study by the national nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development concluded that economic incentives offered from 2001 to 2008 by local governments in North Carolina included “over 50 cases in which local governments paid more than $10,000 per job [and] 6 instances in which local governments offered more than $40,000 per job.”

In July and August, Asheville and Buncombe County officials agreed to offer Canada-based manufacturer Linamar Corporation a multimillion economic-development package that included the purchase of the former Volvo plant in south Asheville.

In 1998, Volvo was one of the first tenants at Broadlands Technical Park — a south Asheville business development that got a $300,000 infrastructure assistance grant and a $2.25 million loan from the city of Asheville the year before. In 2007, Volvo received a $599,200 economic incentive grant from the city and $4 million from Buncombe.

In March 2009, Volvo announced it was closing its Asheville plant. Because it failed to meet the criteria set in the 2007 agreements, iIt never received the approved incentives.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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