Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sen. Wyden: Cut taxes, build more breweries, create more jobs, buy more beer (and hops!)

Eugene, OR. Against the backdrop of the Ninkasi brewery in the midst of a major upgrade, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) made the case today that passing a federal bill that will slash taxes for small brewers will help crafties plow their savings back into creating more jobs.

“In a state that’s hurting, “ said Senator Wyden, “ the craft brewing industry is a magnet for investment and new jobs.” Flanked by brewers, hop and barley growers, OSU researchers and equipment manufacturers, Senator Wyden proudly noted that craft brewing is “one of Oregon’s core industries,” adding $2.33 billion to the state’s economy.

“A lower tax will open the door for new breweries to start up – breweries that will buy more hops and barley, build more breweries and hire more people,” said Sen. Wyden. Along with Sen. John Kerry, Sen Wyden has proposed a bill that will lower taxes on the first 60,000 barrels, which he said would provide the nation’s 1500 small brewers with an additional $44 million to invest in facilities and create jobs.

Indie Hops was pleased to be invited to speak as Oregon’s first home-grown hops merchant. My partner Jim Solberg , clad for the first time in recent memory in a pair of sensible black wingtip knock-offs (instead of his signature Berkenshire knock-offs), spoke of Indie Hops’ commitment to jobs.

“We invested over $2 million in a pellet mill, employing ironworkers, electricians, technicians and all sorts of specialists,” Solberg said. “We funded a first-ever aroma hops research program at Oregon State. And we’re contracting with local farmers to grow the premium hop varieties that craft brewers love.”

Earlier, Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, one of the heritage hop farmers with whom IH contracts, spoke of a decrease in acreage from over 6,100 acres in 2009 to around 5,100 acres in 2010, largely because the decision by Anheuser/InBev to cut its purchase of Willamette hops. “We’d like to make up for that deficit, and then some, by expanding our craft brewer customer base, putting in more hop acreage, funding more research and expanding our payroll and facilities, “ said Jim.

Oregon is the nation’s second largest producer of craft beer, behind our neighbor California, which of course has about 10 times the population. Oregon ‘s 78 breweries employ 4,700 full and part-time employees in 106 brewing facilities in 47 cities. Cool numbers.

Special thanks to Jamie Floyd, owner of Ninkasi, who hosted the press conference. Ninkasi’s phenomenal growth in a few short years in a local market stacked with craft cognoscenti sends a strong message that the consumer base is expanding commensurate with the escalating quality of craft beer nationwide. We haven’t even scratched the surface!

Oregonians are going nuts for craft. Eugene, with a population of about 150,000, sports six (6) craft breweries. Bend, where I live part time, with a much smaller population of around 80,000, boasts a whopping eight breweries. And we’re not done. The rumor is two, maybe three more breweries, are slated to join the fun in Bend’s (much ballyhooed but far from omnipresent) sun.

Roger Worthington

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