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The business of breweries has been expanding in the area over the past decade and as the trend continues, the local economy benefits.
“From an economic development standpoint [breweries] are very attractive,” said Jim Noel, York County’s economic development director. “So craft breweries or brewpubs address various aspects of economic development perfectly.”
Noel said when considering new developments, localities not only want to bring in industries that will garner tax revenue but also provide a sense of “place making.”
That means having amenities that are attractive to residents and improves quality of life.
Breweries bring in tax revenue both through their sales and equipment.
The area is also trying to attract a young workforce and provide amenities that will make the location appealing to the millennial generation, Noel said.
The industry is also a large draw for tourists who want to experience local character and cuisine through a variety of options. Because breweries tend to feature local food trucks and allow guests to see the brews being made, typically, they are a huge benefit to the tourism industry.
“Tourism is a big part of our economy so anything that adds to that mix and attractiveness were supportive of,” Noel said. “It’s very synergistic with what we want to do in terms of improving the options for citizens, particularly in trying to attract and hold a younger workforce.”
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Breweries haven’t always been such a booming industry in the area, though.
Noel said he remembers when the first brewery, Williamsburg Brewing Company which is now known as Alewerks, came to the area more than a decade ago. At the time, it was something Noel said he didn’t know much about.
“It was really cutting edge,” he said. “It was new and different. Obviously the industry has matured since then and it continues to be popular and contribute to local identity.”
But the industry doesn’t just impact one locality. Noel said all three have to work together and to have a booming brewery industry because they are all so close to each other.
For example, a recent initiative from the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority promotes the creation of a new “Edge District” which is the area that runs along Merrimac Trail and Second Street and crosses between Williamsburg and York County.
The area already has at least one brewery, Virginia Beer Company.
“If you can get some synergy with these things coming together and brand that area, that’s good for everyone,” Noel said. “Because that area becomes a place for new types of food and drink and it has the unique aspect that the product is already right there.”
In addition to a collection of breweries, York County also approved a new brewpub, Beale’s.
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Noel said brewpubs are slightly smaller operations than a brewery and bring different elements to the table while still providing some of the positive aspects, such as creating enticing amenities for locals and tourists.
“It all goes back to place making,” Noel said. “[This industry] can help to make an environment new and fresh.”