Wouldn’t you love for your company to be wooed to a vibrant city?
That’s every entrepreneur’s dream. And that’s exactly what happened when the City of Richmond began a nine-month process to bring Stone Brewing Co. to town.
Jane Ferrara stood at the helm of the project.
“I knew bringing Stone to Richmond would take more than a great infrastructure, an available site and building, and natural resources,” she says. “It would take transformational change.”
Scroll down to learn how she sealed the deal.
Be Inkandescent: Take us back to the beginning of the negotiations. How did Stone initially approach the City of Richmond about putting its East Coast headquarters here?
Jane Ferrara: Stone was in need of an East Coast brewery in order to meet the demand for their product throughout the United States. They are based in San Deigo, but approximately 40 percent of their beer is sold on the East Coast. An important quality of their beer is its freshness, so it has to be shipped in refrigerated trucks.
Transportation costs were beginning to have a huge impact on their bottom line, so an East Coast production facility made the most sense to address Stone’s need for increased production.
The site-selection process they undertook was extensive and entailed a comprehensive decision matrix. Richmond, along with over 250 other communities, was evaluated on many criteria. As with most companies, of course the cost of doing business was of utmost importance, but also important were the city’s capacity to provide large quantities of water, access to a quality labor pool, and a business-friendly locality. But Stone also included many qualitative criteria, such as the lifestyle of the community.
Be Inkandescent: Richmond is a vibrant city on the move — was that part of the attraction?
Jane Ferrara: Yes! We were named one of the Top Destinations in the World to visit in 2014 by “Frommer’s,” and one of America’s Top 5 Cities to Keep on Your Radar by Huffington Post. There are too many other accolades to name.
We are located midway on the Eastern Seaboard, making Richmond an ideal location for reaching three-quarters of the US consumer population. We have a rich cultural and arts community, four universities (enrolling more than 45,000 students) and an exciting food scene that is being recognized nationally. Stone took all of these and more into consideration when comparing communities.
Be Inkandescent: When I heard you talk about this big win at the Richmond Chamber’s Extraordinary Women’s Exchange earlier this year, you talked about this process being about transformational change. What did you mean by that?
Jane Ferrara: One of Stone’s qualitative objectives was to locate to a community where it could make a difference. While the City of Richmond has many positive attributes, it also has its challenges. For example, our poverty rate, 27 percent, is simply unacceptable.
We need to draw businesses here that will make investments and hire our residents. When we considered sites to present to Stone, it was important to identify a site that would accomplish more than one goal for the city. Our Redevelopment and Housing Authority owned a large site in the Greater Fulton Community, which has been long-overlooked.
Forty-five years ago, residents there were displaced from their homes to make way for an Urban Renewal Plan that today is largely unrealized. That land has been vacant ever since. We believed that the Stone project could transform the area and accomplish many important objectives. Of course job creation and investment were also important.
Stone’s brewery and bistro will employ at least 288 people and bring tourism to the area. Stone is committed to hiring locally and working with local businesses. We also saw an opportunity to revitalize the eastern end of the city’s riverfront and bring more tourism to the area. Stone’s Bistro & Beer Gardens is the third most popular tourist attraction in North San Diego County, drawing more than 600,000 visitors each year.
Be Inkandescent: What were your biggest challenges?
Jane Ferrara: A project of this magnitude takes a high level of communication, community engagement, and public support. The transactions necessary to compete for this project are very complex and difficult for many people to understand. My biggest challenge was explaining the various aspects of the project in the public realm, while protecting the confidentiality of the negotiations.
Be Inkandescent: This wasn’t the first time you tried to attract a big brewery to town. Tell us about that experience.
Jane Ferrara: Yes, in fact we actually had to lose so that we could learn how to win. About three years ago, we went through a similar process with New Belgium Brewing Company, which is located in Fort Collins, Colorado. While the company put Richmond on its short list and liked what we had to offer, they ultimately chose Asheville, North Carolina, as its East Coast site.
That experience taught us so much about the craft-brewing industry and what is important to it. We also began to more fully understand and be able to articulate why and how the craft brewing industry is a great fit for the City of Richmond. It’s a desirable industry for us to have here because it is a high-growth industry, creates good new jobs, stimulates new investment, and generates tourism.
Be Inkandescent: How did you differentiate Richmond from the other cities that Stone was considering?
Jane Ferrara: We knew that it was important to anticipate Stone’s needs every step of the way. Every time they came to town, we made sure all the right people were in the room to answer the company’s questions and concerns.
We also focused on not simply naming a list of Richmond’s wonderful attributes and instead discussing those attributes in terms of why and how they would benefit Stone. Once example is the James River. Not only does it provide great recreational opportunities and lend beauty to our downtown landscape, but its natural resource is critical to brewing.
I think the way that the brewing industry fits in Richmond is kind of like the way Napa Valley is so suited to the wine industry. Napa Valley’s natural resources — the soils and climate — are important to making wine. Richmond is blessed to have an abundance of the natural resource brewers need — good-quality water!
Be Inkandescent: Whom did you pull onto your team? And did you know whom to listen to?
Jane Ferrara: It took a diverse team of people to land Stone’s business. First, we had to assemble subject-matter experts who could help us address the technical aspects of Stone’s Request for Proposals (RFP). We also engaged the business community to help us tell our story and answer Stone’s questions about doing business in Richmond.
In fact, during one of Stone’s visits, we assembled a group of business owners in a conference room and then left, allowing Stone to ask any questions they wanted without having us there.
As for whom did I listen to, we had to listen to everyone! Citizens, city administration, outside consultants, elected officials, etc. But most importantly, we had to listen to Stone!
Be Inkandescent: What kind or response have you received from the communities?
Jane Ferrara: Generally, the community was very supportive of the project. Especially the Greater Fulton community, where the brewery will be located. It is a passionate, enthusiastic community that understood the impact that Stone would have on their neighborhood. Of course, we also had those who opposed the project.
For the most part, it wasn’t Stone that they were opposed to, it was the business terms of the transactions and incentives that drew the most opposition. The City of Richmond took all of these comments very seriously. We consulted with the city’s financial advisers and other subject-matter experts to review our proposals every step of the way.
We carefully reviewed Stone’s financial statements to make sure they were fiscally sound. It was critical to ensure that we protected the best interests of Richmond’s citizens.
Be Inkandescent: What are some of your biggest lessons learned?
Jane Ferrara: One of the biggest lessons I learn time and time again is the importance of good communication related to projects of this nature.
Be Inkandescent: Would you do it all again?
Jane Ferrara: Absolutely! This was such a huge, high-profile win for the City of Richmond. Stone received more than 350 proposals from 250 localities along the Eastern Seaboard. They chose Richmond and we are proud of that!
Be Inkandescent: What other companies does Richmond have an eye on?
Jane Ferrara: Well, we don’t typically disclose names of companies in order to protect their confidentiality. However, after the announcement by Stone that it had chosen Richmond, we began receiving inquiries from other companies interested in looking at the city. Generally, in addition to the Food and Beverage industries, our targeted industries include: Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services, Health and Life Sciences, Logistics and Transportation, Professional and Creative Services, and Corporate Headquarters.
Be Inkandescent: When it comes to thinking about the future of Richmond, what do you envision in the next three years, five years, 50 years?
Jane Ferrara: I think Richmond is just beginning to realize its true potential. Winning such a highly sought-after project like Stone proves that we can and will continue to win. In the future, I envision a community that continues to thrive and grow, but in a thoughtful and deliberate way.
I am hopeful that our public transportation will be fully developed so everyone has access to jobs, entertainment, and services, and so we can stop being so car-centric in our redevelopment. I hope my kids will want to stay here and raise their families, but if not, that they will want to come and visit often!
Be Inkandescent: What is your favorite thing about Richmond today? And what do you look forward to in the future?
Jane Ferrara: My favorite thing about Richmond is its easy lifestyle and accessibility. Most everything I need is within five miles from my home. I walk whenever I can. But, if I want to get away, I can be at the beach, or the mountains, or the nation’s capital within a two-hour drive.
For more information about the City of Richmond, visit www.richmondgov.com.