I’ve been writing about the economic development aspect of beer for a long time and sometimes it is easy to forget that not everyone is aware of how critical a part of the local economy craft beer has become, but there is an aspect beyond pure economic development that doesn’t get talked about much.
Real quick, though, let’s look at the big factors that have been pretty well worn for those of you who are new to the conversation.
Jobs are a real and important factor
Working in a brewery is a good, solid job. The pay isn’t spectacular, but it is respectable and predictable. Predictability is what we want to focus on here.
Estimates around the Internet vary (obviously), but there’s a consensus that between 40 and 50 percent of every dollar spent recirculates into the community. That’s in taxes and fees (property, payroll, water and sewer) as well as in employee spending—rent, groceries, entertainment besides beer, etc. Trained, well paid employees are conscientious about sinking their money back into the community.
Breweries are a community enhancement
More people have come to Delmar because of 3rd Wave Brewery than for any other reason. Although there isn’t a lot else going on in the town, the brewery has put Delmar on the map as a destination. But they have been successful in connecting with the larger beer community and the larger community has supported them in return.
Similarly in places like Milford, Del. where Mispillion River Brewing has helped jump start something of a civic revival there. The town recently held its second beer festival and has begun seriously developing its riverwalk.
Politically, representatives are starting to accept that breweries are an important part of municipal economic development (a lesson we forgot during the runup to Prohibition). They get the taxes and tourism benefits that breweries bring. They also get that the brewers, like many other small business owners, understand they thrive best when they engage the community directly.
Moreover, the more localities can rely on brewer-generated income, the less pressure on the state for jobs and economic development resourced. Breweries generate their own, and they get better at generating it all the time.
Beer festivals, for example, have become big business for the communities around the breweries and only get bigger. Although, financially these events tend to be a near-wash in the short term for breweries, brewers often help organize them because they are playing the long game. Brewers are building a culture, which takes time. They also are building a community, which is critical but takes less time. Many of the local breweries already have succeeded in community building.
People like me (and, if you’re reading this, probably people like you) have been part of the evangelism of local beer for long enough that we are a demographic. Yes, mostly we’re white guys, but that is changing quickly as local beer gets more popular. The point is that craft beer enthusiasm is a recognized thing. We know we are part of the craft beer community and, because of the access we have to the people making the beer, we have the honor and responsibility of recruiting more people into the community.
Recently Delaware changed some laws that were, if not craft beer related, seemingly craft beer inspired. For me the most interesting was the new rule that regulations have to be revisited every four years to see how they’re affecting small business. Over the last 20-ish years, Delaware and its municipalities have had to rewrite and repeal dozens of regulations left over from Prohibition just to allow breweries (as well as wineries and, now, distilleries) to operate. On some level, you have to imagine legislators saying, “I wonder what other regulations exist that serve no other purpose than to prevent new businesses from opening or keep current businesses from growing.”
No one wants to find out the hard way
Recently, I covered a town meeting wherein Lori Clough (of 3rd Wave) applied for an expansion. The distance between when Salisbury fought off the brewery idea and when Berlin sheparded Burley Oak through seems much more than the 10 years is has been. What the next 10 years will bring for the craft beer culture will be something to see. It certainly is going to be fun to be a part of.