Monday, Sep 22, 2014
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County wooing Calif. beer manufacturer

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BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County is trying to entice a California beer manufacturer to open a facility in the area that potentially could cost $60 million and create 400 jobs.

The Stone Brewing Company in San Diego has been around since 1996 and is the 10th largest maker of craft beer in the nation.

In 2013 alone, the company produced 213,000 barrels of beer.

County Administrator Len Sossamon last week announced he has fired off a response to the company, which has announced it is seeking a manufacturing site for its new Eastern U.S. facility.

Sossamon said Hernando County is vying with other regions in the country - including North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Pennsylvania are among states interested - for a piece of the 400-plus jobs Stone Brewing potentially would bring at full build-out.

Phase one would include a $20 million, 120,000-square-foot facility with beer hall, indoor and outdoor beer garden and brewery. During the first year of operation, Stone plans to hire 105 people.

By the end of the fifth year, the company wants to expand the operation and add another 300 jobs. Total investment in the community at that time would be $60 million, Sossamon said.

In his proposal to lure the company, Sossamon said he played up Hernando County's low impact fees, lack of a state income tax, accessibility to major highways and great weather.

Now it's a matter of waiting, he said.

"They notified us they received the proposal and that it will be considered," Sossamon said. "We'll see what happens next."

County Commissioner Dave Russell said he believes Hernando has an edge over the other states because of the county's reputation of having a quality water supply.

"They have terrible water, and we have great water here," Russell said. "Water is critical to brewing."

Russell said the infrastructure already is in place so Stone could set up shop without a long wait.

Craft beer is typically more expensive than other beers because they are made by smaller, independent manufacturers. Also, there is more malt in the beer and fewer fillers than at bigger breweries.

"The competition's stiff," Sossamon said. "While the overall beer market is not as strong as it used to be, the craft portion of it has grown by leaps and bounds."

The Stone Brewing Company now occupies more than 238,000 square feet of brewing, packaging, warehousing, distribution and office space in San Diego.

The company's new operations facility will feature a full-production brewery, packaging, distribution and administrative support operations, which would be distributed east of the Mississippi River and for export, Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan said in his company's proposal.

"The entire operation will be staffed with local employees, and we strive to source all materials locally," Tiernan wrote.

Tiernan said production is projected to exceed 120,000 barrels in the first phase and eventually reach up to 500,000.

Payroll will grow as operations expand, Tiernan said.

Projected revenue from the facility will exceed $100 million in year four and grow in time into hundreds of millions of dollars annually, he said.

Tiernan said the site selection will come down to factors such as "advantageous operational expenses - including labor, utilities and logistics, development challenges and available incentive and development packages."

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