Myrtle Beach area economic developers courting major craft brewer, hundreds of jobs

sjones@thesunnews.comMarch 12, 2014 

Horry County economic development officials are hoping to woo California-based Stone Brewing Co. to set up its East Coast operation here and have created a Facebook page they hope will help in the effort.

Morgan Dendy, spokeswoman for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said the EDC has seen other out-of-the-box efforts attract employers. She said the hope is that locals will inundate the site – www.facebook.com/StoneBrewedMB – with messages that they are fans of Stone Brewing’s craft beers and urge the company to locate here. The Facebook page had about 1,190 likes by about 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Stone Brewing’s online request for proposals says the company would expect to invest $20 million to open its East Coast operation, and that there eventually will be hundreds of jobs, all hired locally. It would spend $60 million in five years on the East Coast facilities.

It wants a manufacturing-ready building or a site that will accommodate a 130,000-square-foot brewery with enough space to expand that to 220,000 square feet. It would plan to manufacture 100,000 barrels of beer the first year, a figure that the company says would grow to 550,000 barrels a year.

Stone Brewing’s San Diego brewery produced 213,000 barrels of beer in 2013, according to the company website.

The company says in the RFP that it plans to open a Stone World Bistro & Gardens and a retail store in the same place it sets up its new brewery.

Sabrina LoPiccolo, Stone Brewing public relations specialist, said in an email Wednesday afternoon that ideally, the brewery and Bistro would be on the same property. At the minimum, she said the two will be on adjacent land.

The company has not set a date by which it will make a decision on the location of its new brewery, LoPiccolo wrote.

Dendy said that MBREDC is targeting sites near Broadway at the Beach because of the tourist traffic that would be drawn to the Bistro & Gardens, which the company describes as a destination-type attraction.

As the brewery would be the distribution point for products destined for the eastern U.S., the company wants convenient access to a freeway.

Mark Kruea, spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach, said current zoning on land in the Broadway area would not allow a brewery. But the land could be rezoned as a planned unit development, which could permit the facility. A change in the zoning would require City Council approval.

Stone Brewing Co. is the nation’s 10th-largest craft brewer, representing 35 craft and specialty brands, with more than $135 million in revenue last year. It expects that its East Coast brewery and Bistro would exceed $100 million in sales in its fourth year, which would eventually grow to hundreds of millions annually.

Founded in 1996, its annual sales have grown by an average of 46 percent in every year since.

And while the Facebook page could be a head-turner, it isn’t the only offbeat effort being used to attract Stone Brewing’s attention. The economic development group in Knoxville, Tenn., for instance, has commissioned two songs, “People of Stone” and “A Stone in East Tennessee” to set its proposal apart from others. Brewbound.com, a website devoted to covering the craft brew industry, describes the songs as “a pair of love letter country tunes” dedicated to the company.

Legislators in Alabama are working to get state laws changed to accommodate the brewery.

Knoxville lost out to Greensboro, N.C., for a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Greensboro has also landed a New Belgium brewery, and is searching for a building for Stone Brewing’s East Coast home, according to Brewbound.

LoPiccolo said that songs and Facebook pages will not weigh in the company’s decision for a new location.

“The ability to meet our site requirements is the most important factor when making a decision,” she wrote.

Dendy said the brewery would be a natural for the Grand Strand and its 15 million yearly tourists.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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