On April 30, 2015, Governor McAuliffe declared May as Business Appreciation Month in Virginia. As the 9th most visited state in the country, Virginia’s tourism industry is big business for the Commonwealth. In 2013, visitors spent $21.5 billion, which supported 213,000 jobs and contributed $1.42 billion in state and local taxes. Tourism is an instant revenue generator.
One of the emerging and most exciting industries drawing visitors to Virginia is the craft beer industry. With 100 breweries and more opening every year, Virginia has become a magnet for the craft brewers. During this first week of Business Appreciation Month, now is a great time to highlight not only some of the Commonwealth’s amazing craft breweries, but also to recognize a fast-growing segment of Virginia’s economy.
Virginia’s state tourism development plan, DRIVE Tourism, identified craft breweries and distilleries as an expanding culinary tourism attraction opportunity statewide. Craft beer is big business in Virginia, making an estimated economic impact of more than $622 million. A study by the Brewers Association found that the craft beer industry employs more than 8,000 employees with an average wage of $33,541 and total labor income of more than $273 million.
The craft beer industry is also an important component of Virginia’s growing culinary scene. No other state came close to earning the culinary accolades that Virginia did in 2014. Virginia’s surging restaurant and bar scene propelled us to new heights in the opinion of leading food and drink journals. Virginia chefs elbowed their way into the top echelon aided enormously by top Virginia-based purveyors in homegrown meat, seafood and produce along with artisanal cheese makers, bakers and salumeria. Craft brewers in Virginia have created a sensation with a collection of top ribbons in national and international competition, joining Virginia wine, cider and spirits in elevating the state’s long-standing reputation for good things in a bottle. Esquire magazine named Virginia the “Food Region of 2014,” citing Charlottesville’s Champion Brewing Company as one of the contributing factors to why “the Old Dominion has seemingly overnight exploded into one of the country’s greatest gastro regions.”
As a result of a rising interest in craft beer and the state fostering an ideal environment for small businesses to succeed, Virginia has become an attraction destination for craft beer businesses – large and small – to set up shop. In October 2014, Governor McAuliffe announced that Stone Brewing Company, the 10th largest brewing company in the United States, would establish operations in the City of Richmond, investing $74 million and creating nearly 300 new jobs. After competing with more than 20 states, Stone chose Richmond as a great place to do business.
The following month, the Governor announced that Loudoun County’s Black Hops Farm would host the first Mid-Atlantic commercial hops processing operation, becoming the largest hopsyard and processing facility in the Commonwealth. The company, providing important hops processing services for the entire region, will invest about $1 million, create 11 new jobs in Loudoun County, and source more than 60% of their hops from Virginia over the next three years. The Commonwealth of Virginia partnered with Loudoun County and Black Hops Farm on this project through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID).
The growth of the craft beer industry is also having a positive impact on Virginia’s smaller towns. Many of Virginia’s craft breweries are located within or in close proximity to smaller towns and communities. Places like Abingdon, Afton, and Salem now have breweries, and locations such as Bristol, Floyd and Glade Spring are expecting brewery openings this year. Many more communities are targeting brewery businesses to compliment other related tourism economic development efforts.
Leaders in St. Paul, Virginia, for example, are interested in a brewery to enhance the experience of visitors who are now coming to ride the Spearhead Trails and float the Clinch River, both as part of key economic development initiatives in which Virginia Tourism Corporation has been involved.
This Business Appreciation Month, let’s raise a glass to Virginia’s surging craft beer industry and its positive contribution to a new Virginia economy.