In 2016, the company Deschutes Brewery tried to get a free ride from Buncombe County taxpayers. Several politicians were eager to raise our taxes to enrich Deschutes. The excuse given was that to get the jobs, we had to “play the game.” There was no guarantee that the jobs would go to the Buncombe County taxpayers who would pay for them.
The recent scandals about misspent economic development funds show that the game was really to create a pool of funds, which certain officials could dip into to spend tax money for their personal benefit. The economic development story was just a front. That is why the contracts never require a company to pay a living wage to all employees or to hire residents of Buncombe County. Those conditions make it hard to get the company to go along with the scam. So the contracts are written with no benefit to taxpayers.
Commissioners Joe Belcher, Mike Fryar and Miranda DeBruhl opposed forcing taxpayers to play this game. They were rebuked by the other commissioners for serving taxpayers rather than big business. Commissioner DeBruhl especially suffered harsh blame when Deschutes strung us along. The recent convictions prove that the “economic development” game was just a big scam and that the three commissioners above were right.
Further, Deschutes just strung Roanoke along like they did us until they finally abandoned their plans there [“Deschutes Brewery Says It Can’t Make Roanoke’s Revised Timetable for Plant,” The Roanoke Times, April 2: avl.mx/6fj]. They played both communities for fools. We wouldn’t have a Deschutes brewery no matter what we did. We only would have given them more time to laugh at us.
Although not all of them are still in office, this might be a good time for the politicians who wrongly rebuked commissioners Belcher, Fryar and DeBruhl to apologize to them. It’s only fair now that we know they were doing the right thing.
— Brennan Green
Editor’s note: The Roanoke Times article quotes the city manager there as still having a “bit of hope” that Deschutes may someday build the brewery in Roanoke; it also notes that Deschutes waived $4.2 million in state and local incentives when it bought the Roanoke parcel so it could build on its own timeline, though the company could reapply for those incentives.