Business Spotlight: Adult Beverage Industry’s Contribution to Culpeper’s Economy is Growing Up
The adult beverage industry (beer, wine, distilled spirits) is a major contributor to the U.S. economy. According to the American Beverage Licensees association (ABL), a national trade group representing bars, taverns, and package stores, America’s beer, wine and spirits retailers contribute more than $245 billion to local, state and national economies through job creation, good wages and direct economic contribution.
Key Findings of the ABL’s 2014 Economic Impact Study of America’s Beer, Wine and Spirits Retailers include:
- Direct retail alcohol sales from beer, wine and spirits licensees employ as many as 1,774,800 people across the U.S. and generate an additional 777,360 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries.
- Nationally, the industry and its employees pay over $19.3 billion in federal taxes, and $16.9 billion in state and local taxes.
Virginia has become a magnet for the adult beverage industry. Craft breweries, distilleries and vineyards have been popping up in small towns and communities throughout the state. Culpeper County is no exception. Home to Belmont Farm Distillery, Old House Vineyards and Distillery and two microbreweries, Beer Hound and Far Gohn, Culpeper has become a destination for travelers looking for local flavor in this fast growing segment of the economy.
Belmont Farm Distillery is a family owned and operated business. Chuck Miller and his wife Jeanne purchased the farm in 1975. It was originally an old English Land Grant in the 1830’s where it produced grain and livestock. During the Civil War, it was occupied by the North and involved in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, a battle in which nearly 3,000 soldiers were killed in one day. Upon the North's departure, the main house was burned to the ground. During the great Depression a tenant house was built on the property that lasted until 1975 when it was replaced with the present day brick Colonial home.
After a venture into the wine business but unable to yield a profit, Chuck Miller remembered that his grandfather had made whiskey in the 1920s. He decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps (with the exception that Chuck would not have to “dodge revenuers” as part of his business plan). He resurrected the family recipe, applied for all necessary permits and in 1989 unveiled Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey – fondly known as moonshine. Today the farm produces about 150 cases per acre. In addition, the distillery produces triple-grain Kopper Kettle Virginia Whiskey, as well as several other products. Open the first Saturday of April through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Belmont Farm Distillery welcomes the public to visit and take a tour and tasting. To learn more check out their website. www.belmontfarmdistillery.com
Virginia’s wine industry ranks among the state’s fastest growing economic sectors. With more than 200 wineries, the Commonwealth is the fifth-largest wine grape producer in the nation according to an economic impact study commissioned by the Virginia Wine Board.
Culpeper County is home to one of the state’s most charming vineyards and popular wedding locations, Old House Vineyards and Distillery. Old House Vineyards got its start when, on a rainy Mother’s Day weekend in 1998, Pat and Allyson Kearney discovered a long forgotten 75-acre farm. Through the spring rain, the Kearney’s recognized the hidden beauty of the overgrown alfalfa fields and abandoned 19th century farmhouse and the old house was reborn. Today, the winery’s lush vineyards produce a range of highly praised, award-winning wines including Chardonnay, Vidal, Rose, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Ice Wine, a port styled wine and a sparkling wine.
This past year the Kearney’s ventured into spirits and opened a craft distillery becoming one of the first winery-distilleries in Virginia. The new distillery will use agricultural commodities to produce handcrafted spirits including agave, brandy, rum and vodka. The company’s signature product will be a Virginia Brandy – 100% grown, harvested, fermented, distilled and bottled on site. In addition to producing this flagship product, Old House Distillery will provide services for local wineries, distilling their wines into fortified spirits for a 100% Virginia Port-style wine. Old House Distillery will also begin a Virginia Brandy collection in partnership with other wineries across the Commonwealth.
“Old House Distillery’s investment represents an exciting new opportunity for Virginia producers and for the Commonwealth as we continue to take advantage of the emerging craft beer, cider, and distilled spirit industries to enhance, improve, and successfully market Virginia-grown inputs,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “With more than 260 wineries and cideries, 100 craft breweries and 20 craft distilleries, Virginia is quickly emerging as the preeminent craft beverage player on the East Coast. These entrepreneurial ventures are creating jobs and generating revenue, especially in rural areas, and helping to build the new Virginia economy.”
To learn more check out their website. www.oldhousevineyards.com
For businesses seeking a product distribution edge, Virginia’s central East Coast location offers access to 41% of the U.S. population in a day’s drive. This geographic advantage, as well as the availability of key agricultural ingredients and clean water, has made Virginia a prime location for the craft beer industry. In the last year alone, Culpeper has received interest from several established craft breweries looking to expand to the East Coast from a variety of areas within the nation. In addition, two microbreweries have opened in the downtown area. Beer Hound Brewery, located next to the Depot on Waters Place, and Far Gohn Brewery, two blocks off Davis Street on East, offer a variety of specialized locally brewed beers for patrons to try. To learn more about each of these establishments check out their websites www.beerhoundbrewery.com and www.fargohnbrewery.com.
These businesses produce far more than beverages in bottles. Jobs are created in the companies’ businesses operations. The locally-sourced ingredients used in the manufacturing process create new opportunities for area farmers. And winery, brewery and distillery tours, tastings and events bring in tourists from across the region, creating new customers for local shops and restaurants.
Culpeper is proud to be home to these adult beverage manufacturing businesses and their contributions to our economic development and agritoursim initiatives.
Focus: – How the Arts and Culture Spark Economic Development
Arts and culture has always been a cornerstone of the Culpeper community. In recent years, the Culpeper arts scene has become even more energized, from Sunday art walks to live performances to an array of classes, competitions and festivals.
Recognizing a community’s arts and culture assets, and marketing them, is an important element of economic development. Both the arts and culture sector and local economic vitality are connected in many ways. Pursuing economic development with a creative approach helps improve a community’s competitive edge, attracts new and visiting populations, and contributes to the development of a skilled workforce.
The following “10 Reasons to Support the Arts” was prepared by Americans for the Arts and provides an excellent explanation of why linking culture and the economy is vital to the growth of a community.
- True prosperity…the arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us-fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.
- Improved academic performance…Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service-benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.
- Arts are an Industry…Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, promotes tourism, and advances our creativity-based economy.
- Arts are good for local merchants…the typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside of the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42) – valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.
- Arts are the cornerstone of tourism…Arts travelers are ideal tourists-they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has increased from 17 to 23 percent since 2003, the share attending concerts and theater performances increased from 13 to 16 percent (only 7 percent include a sports event).
- Arts are an export industry…U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g. movies, paintings, jewelry) grew to $64 billion in 2010, while imports were just $23 billion – a $41 billion arts trade surplus in 2010.
- Building the 21st Century workforce…Reports by the Conference Board show creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders – with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “…the arts – music, creative writing, drawing, and dance – provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”
- Healthcare…Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients – shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.
- Stronger communities…University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.
- Creative Industries…The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 905,689 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.35 million people – representing 4.4 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees, respectively.
Culpeper has an active and well-rounded arts scene and becomes more vibrant which each new event, festival, gallery and venue. The restored State Theatre, the new Arts & Culture Center, the Museum of Culpeper History, 3rd Thursday Summer Concert Series at the Depot, Bluemont Concert Series, Culpeper Downtown Sunday Art Walk, Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, Stage Alive Community Concert Series, Windmore Foundation for the Arts, a full schedule of festivals, arts and crafts shows, and live entertainment at local restaurants, breweries and wineries ... the list keeps growing. The win/win relationship between economic development and arts and culture is truly thriving in Culpeper.
New Business: Culpeper’s Agricultural Advantage is Growing ... Year-round.
For centuries, the rich Virginia soil has produced a wide variety of crops, and Culpeper County has always been a leading contributor to this diverse agriculture sector. With more than 600 working farms producing everything from corn to soybeans to straw, agriculture is by far the largest industry in the county. With the increasing demand among consumers, restaurateurs and grocers for locally grown produce, Culpeper is fast becoming a four-season producer. Culpeper is now home to two of the most advanced controlled greenhouses on the East Coast, producing tomatoes, lettuces, herbs year-round, using hydroponics.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “hydroponics” as follows: “hy-dro-pon-ics (hi’dre-pon’iks) n. Plural in form, used with a singular verb. The cultivation of plants in water containing dissolved inorganic nutrients, rather than in soil…”
Most plants grown hydroponically are raised in greenhouses under carefully controlled conditions. The greenhouses can operate in any climate and produce crops from seed to table in a fraction of the space required by traditional agriculture. Growers all over the world are using hydroponic techniques due to the lack of a large water supply or fertile farmland. In hydroponic farming, there is no soil, so the plants can be fed the exact nutrients they need for rapid growth and volume production.
Hydroponics offers many advantages for commercial agriculture. Cultivating plants without soil eliminates the need for vast farmland and allows crops to be produced in greenhouses. It also allows for precise water and nutrient application directly to the roots of each plant. The water is reused and less is lost in evaporation and run-off. Because a sterile environment is used, there are no weeds to remove, and soil-borne pests and diseases are minimized. If grown properly, the plants are healthier and mature faster, yielding an earlier and often larger harvest. The biggest advantage to hydroponically grown crops is the ability to automate the system with a timer. The automation helps reduce the time it takes to maintain plant growth requirements.
Culpeper County is home to two major greenhouse projects. The most recent, BrightFarms, Inc., a company based in New York, is locating its newest greenhouse production facility in Elkwood. Investing $7.35 million to construct and operate two new 150,000-square-foot greenhouses, the facility will produce green leaf produce and tomatoes. The new venture will create 24 new jobs and should be complete by December 2015. BrightFarms and Ahold USA supermarkets which includes Giant and Martins Food Markets, have partnered and the local produce will be sold and delivered directly to those stores in the Virginia, Maryland, DC and Delaware markets.
BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot stated, “Not only is it a win for consumers but for the environment as well, as it will eliminate agricultural runoff, conserve land and water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Located in Stevensburg, Prins USA owns and operates a ten-acre greenhouse which produces ferns and hydroponic lettuces. President and owner Joe Van Wingerden has a lifelong career in the greenhouse industry. His passion led to creating Prins USA which also develops and constructs greenhouses around the world. Mr. Van Wingerden personally oversees the Stevensburg greenhouse. At one point, the greenhouse was also home to one of the largest tulip production operations on the East Coast.
Our more than 600 local farms remain the heart and soul of the Culpeper’s economy. Culpeper farmers have played a significant role in helping Virginia’s surpass North Carolina to become the second largest exporter of agricultural products on the East Coast. (Georgia remains number 1 ... for now.) The addition of these state-of-the-art greenhouses provide yet another example of how Virginia treasures its heritage while embracing the future. And it also highlights Culpeper’s unique business advantages – location, infrastructure, technology, quality of life and a dedicated workforce – and how these factors combine to create new opportunities across a diverse and balanced economy.