• Entrepreneur of the Month

How the City of Richmond Wooed Stone Brewing Co.

MAY 2015: BRINGING STONE HOME

Richmond means business! That’s evident in this Richmond, VA (RVA), video (above), and in Jane Ferrara’s success at helping to bring Stone Brewing Co. to Richmond. How did she do it? The CEO of the city’s Economic Development Authority says “transformational change” was the key to landing the big brewery.

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine

“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone,” said musician Henry Rollins.

What a perfect description of what Jane Ferrara did. The chief operating officer of the City of Richmond’s Economic Development Authority, she helped seal the deal in October 2014 to bring Stone Brewing Co. to Richmond.

Starting this year, the 10th largest craft brewer in the United States will begin to invest $74 million to construct a production brewery, packaging hall, destination restaurant and gardens, retail store, and administrative offices in Richmond.

Stone selected Richmond from among cities in more than 20 states that vied to be a host cite for Stone after the brewery sent out its request for proposals in January 2014.

Landing the Big One

“The search for our location east of the Mississippi River was no easy endeavor,” said Steve Wagner, Stone’s president, who co-founded the company in 1996 with California native Greg Koch.

“We received and reviewed hundreds of proposals, visited more than 40 sites, and received quite a bit of attention from communities and craft-beer fans.”

Stone is a very big fish. It:

  • Generates more than $135 million in annual sales
  • Employs more than 900 people
  • Has been listed 10 times on the Inc. 500 | 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies
  • Has been called the “All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine — twice

Stone is also the first American craft brewer to independently own and operate facilities in Berlin.

Known for its bold, flavorful, and largely hop-centric beers, Stone has earned a reputation for brewing unique beers while maintaining an unwavering commitment to sustainability, business ethics, philanthropy, and the art of brewing.

Why did Stone choose Richmond?

“The three finalist cities each provided diverse offerings; however, we decided to begin next-step negotiations with Richmond because of their ability to meet our extensive site requirements, subject to the city’s approval,” explains Wagner, whose company produced 287,000 barrels of beer last year.

“We also feel that Richmond’s vibrant energy and impressive craft-beer culture, along with the uniqueness of the property, will allow us to create a truly memorable Stone experience for our fans,” he continued. “We are honored by the amount of time and effort all the communities that submitted proposals put forth.”

The Craft of Making the Deal

In the official announcement declaring that Stone had signed, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “Today’s announcement marks the fruition of months of partnership and aggressive efforts to show Stone that Virginia is the best state for its new craft-beer production and hospitality facility,” noting that Stone had received submissions from more than 20 states.

“This competitive, high-profile project really puts Virginia on the map and cements our standing as a serious player in the craft-beer industry,” McAuliffe added. “In addition to Stone’s significant investment and more than 288 new jobs, the far-reaching economic benefits of this operation are innumerable.”

  • McAuliffe approved a $5 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist the City of Richmond with the project.
  • Stone will also be eligible to receive a grant of up to $250,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID), administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, depending on its procurement and use of Virginia-grown products in its operations.
  • Additionally, the company will receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • Funding and services to support the company’s employee-training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Beginning With the End in Mind

When the nine-month process began, Richmond’s Ferrara knew that wooing Stone would take more than a great infrastructure, an available site and building, and natural resources to lure the brewing company.

It would take transformational change.

“A project of this magnitude takes a high level of communication, community engagement, and public support,” Ferrara explains. “The transactions necessary to compete for this project are very complex and difficult for many to understand.

“My biggest challenge was explaining the various aspects of the project in the public realm, while protecting the confidentiality of the negotiations. Now that was difficult.”

Don’t stop now! Click here to learn how Ferrara overcame the obstacles and sealed the deal with Stone Brewing Co.

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