A recruitment campaign that began more than four years ago and included a vigorous and unprecedented grass-roots crusade culminated Tuesday in an announcement that Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery is Roanoke bound.
A standing-room-only crowd at the City Market Building’s Charter Hall greeted the news with hoots and cheers, sustained applause and, ultimately, a group toast and the clank of beer bottles filled with Deschutes’ various brews, including Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Fresh Squeezed IPA.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Deschutes executives, including founder Gary Fish, announced Tuesday that the craft brewer plans to invest $85 million and build its East Coast production brewery on about 49 acres at the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology, a city business park off U.S. 460 in the vicinity of Blue Hills Golf Club.
That won’t happen for a while, though. Construction will begin in 2019, Deschutes said. The company expects to start shipping beer from Roanoke in about five years.
Fish said Tuesday that the project will require “a good two years of engineering and design,” adding, “We’ve got to make sure we can finance this thing.”
After Tuesday’s big announcement, Fish said, “things will go quiet for a while.”
City Manager Chris Morrill described Deschutes as “a very cautious, deliberate company.” He said he believes their selection of Roanoke “will be a good morale boost” that will help spur additional economic growth.
Deschutes reported it will hire 108 workers for the Roanoke brewery. The state will contribute $3 million from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and a host of other incentives will sweeten the deal.
Deschutes had previously confirmed that the company also was considering sites in Asheville, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina.
“It was a good competition, but the best state won. You know why?” McAuliffe said. “Because Virginia is for beer lovers, folks.”
Fish said the Roanoke site won out as much for qualities that might be considered intangible as for tangible fundamentals.
“The tangibles are easy to compare,” he said. “We just felt like this place suited us best. The people, the place. We think this fits our entrepreneurial spirit and our sense of community.”
The brewery initially will produce about 150,000 barrels, with a design to increase capacity as needed. Fish said details about a companion brew pub will become clearer once the project approaches fruition.
Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, said the partnership’s first direct contact with Deschutes occurred May 25, 2012 — a contact that emerged, she said, from a broader campaign to appeal to craft brewers that launched in January of that year.
She said city officials, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and McAuliffe played important roles in landing the brewery.
The region’s grassroots campaign, Deschutes 2 Roanoke, played a major role, she said. Fish agreed. Michael Galliher, who helped lead that effort, received recognition Tuesday.
“I think the work of the Roanoke Regional Partnership and the city was important, but the community outpouring of support was huge,” Doughty said.
Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewery, said choosing the site was a tough decision. Like Fish, he expressed appreciation for the Deschutes 2 Roanoke campaign.
“We have absolutely been blown away with how the community rallied around bringing us here and has given us such a warm welcome,” LaLonde said.
Deschutes is based in Bend, Oregon, a community that, by its own description, evolved from “a sleepy lumber town to an international mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.” Deschutes started as a brew pub in Bend in 1988.
Deschutes officials said months ago that they sought an East Coast site that also emphasized outdoor recreation, an amenity that Roanoke Valley economic development and tourism officials began touting several years ago.
Doughty said “having the culture match in terms of outdoor amenities and livability” helped seal the deal, a reality she celebrated Tuesday.
“We have been focused on this project for four years,” she said. “We are totally invested in it. It’s really gratifying to see a plan come together.”
David Trinkle, Roanoke’s vice mayor, said the Deschutes decision signals that the city’s decadelong focus on enhancing quality-of-life amenities is paying off.
Bonz Hart, founder, president and CEO of Meridium, a global software company headquartered in Roanoke, was one of the first businesspeople in the region to emphasize that enhanced quality-of-life attributes, ranging from live music to mountain biking, would help information technology companies recruit talented workers.
Meridium employees participated in the Deschutes 2 Roanoke efforts.
“Our folks are excited about Deschutes coming to Roanoke and adding to the tapestry of fun things to see, do and taste,” Hart said.
He said the Deschutes decision supports the growing recognition that the region offers “the perfect mix of great people combined with natural beauty.”
In recent years, the Roanoke region has been a finalist in campaigns to lure craft brewers Sierra Nevada Brewing and Stone Brewing. Sierra Nevada went to the Asheville area and Stone chose Richmond.
Doughty said the region learned then that marketing to craft brewers should emphasize access to good water. The partnership launched a related marketing campaign in January 2012, she said.
She said contact with Sierra Nevada had “educated us on the advantage we had through water and sewer infrastructure for breweries in particular.”
Sarah Baumgardner, a spokeswoman for the regional Western Virginia Water Authority, said Tuesday that the authority “is well positioned to provide drinking water service and wastewater treatment capacity” to businesses that locate or expand in the authority’s service area.
She said water for the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology site comes from Carvins Cove — where land-based amenities include a celebrated network of mountain biking trails.
The water from Carvins Cove “has a low mineral content with a hardness rating in the soft range,” Baumgardner said.
In September, Deschutes had about 500 employees and shipped beer to 28 states, including Virginia, and to Washington, D.C., according to Jason Randles, a company spokesman. The company is both family-owned and employee-owned.
Based on 2014 sales volume, Deschutes ranked seventh among craft brewers, according to a Brewers Association analysis released a year ago. Bart Watson, the association’s chief economist, said 2015 numbers should be published in about two weeks.
In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” a soothsayer warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.” But for the Roanoke Valley and larger region, March 15 kicked off a memorable week of what appears to be remarkably good news for the region’s economy.
On that day, McAuliffe announced that Eldor Corp., a global auto parts manufacturer based in Italy, plans to invest $75 million and create up to 350 new jobs over the next five years at a new facility in Botetourt County.
Doughty confirmed that Eldor had expressed interest in the same site Deschutes will occupy in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology before concluding that the Botetourt site also could be a good fit.
Separately, news broke Friday that the Virginia Community College System planned to centralize many administrative services at a site in Botetourt County that might eventually employ 200 people.
On Sunday, The Roanoke Times reported a new collaboration between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic to extend the reach of their partnership; the two joined forces in 2008 to create the Virginia Tech School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke.
The partners plan to bring 1,000 scientists, clinicians and students to Roanoke to advance breakthrough research that could propel the two institutions onto the global stage, attract businesses and improve the health of residents of the region.
Nancy Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic, reacted to the spate of news that seemed to offer the prospect of good jobs and economic growth.
“What a tremendous week for our community,” Agee said. “I know how important it is with economic development initiatives to take the long view. This week is the payoff for the tireless efforts of many over the past few years.”
Doughty said the long view provides the appropriate context.
“Everyone in local government, higher education and economic development has been working hard to create jobs and investment and spur innovation for a long time,” she said.
“It’s just serendipitous that it all happened in a couple of weeks,” Doughty said.
At Charter Hall Tuesday, former state Sen. Granger Macfarlane described the Deschutes announcement as the week’s “crowning event,” one he said offers the region a wellspring of fresh optimism in addition to good jobs.
Seated nearby, Bobby Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College, said both Deschutes and Eldor had consulted with the college about its mechatronics program, which helps train people for jobs in advanced manufacturing.
In addition to the money from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, Deschutes will receive or be eligible to receive a host of other incentives, based on performance targets that include investment and job hires.
They include the city’s contribution of the land, a donation worth about $2.75 million; a grant of about $140,000 from the city’s Enterprise Zone Program, a performance-based grant from the city through the Economic Development Authority with an anticipated value of about $1.4 million; and two other performance-based grants from the authority totaling $225,000 .
The city said it will improve infrastructure at the business park, work that will include extending Blue Hills Drive to the brewery site and installing water and sewer lines. The city expects to spend about $1 million to extend the Tinker Creek Greenway to the Deschutes facility.
Businesses located at the city’s Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology include Advance Auto Parts, Elizabeth Arden, Heritage Point Urban Farm/Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op, Orvis and Wholesome Harvest Baking, formerly Maple Leaf Bakery.
On Tuesday, State Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said McAuliffe played a key role in recruiting Deschutes.
McAuliffe joked, repeatedly, that the effort required drinking more than a few rounds of Deschutes brews.
Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, said music by the Grateful Dead, played for Deschutes’ executives at the Governor’s Mansion, helped lure the brewery to Roanoke.
Doughty said Deschutes reported in November that it planned to choose Roanoke for its East Coast brewery.
“Due diligence wasn’t completed until a week or two ago,” she said.
Fish joked Tuesday that he was relieved to end the “cloak and dagger” secrecy about his company’s intentions and get back to making beer.
Doughty said the last week has provided the region cause for celebration.
“It’s a time of excitement and optimism for everyone in the Roanoke region” she said.
Staff writers Matt Chittum and Tiffany Holland contributed to this report.