Made in Lexington County: Officials seek to recruit California brewery looking to expand eastward

Lexington County is actively recruiting California-based craft brewery Stone Brewing Co. (photo provided)

Lexington County is actively recruiting California-based craft brewery Stone Brewing Co. (photo provided)

A company that could bring nearly 400 jobs to the Midlands is being recruited heavily by Lexington County.

Stone Brewing Co., the nation’s 10th-largest craft brewery, issued a request for proposal in early 2014 for places to expand its operations east of the Mississippi. The Escondido, Ca.-based company is seeking to add to its retail line and production operations.

According to company estimates, payroll will consist of 103 people in the first year, 346 in the third year and 374 at full ramp, or the five-year mark. Total capital investment will be $31 million at full ramp, with $29 million in initial investment.

Lexington County officials received word through communications with the S.C. Department of Commerce that Stone Brewing was open to doing business in the county. The process to recruit the investment and new jobs began in earnest by the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, Lexington County Economic Development, S.C. Department of Commerce and Central Alliance SC.

“We have a good team,” said Randy Halfacre, president and CEO of the chamber.

The message being sent out to Stone Brewing is simple.

“We want you here,” Halfacre said.

Halfacre said there are 20 acres near Avtec on S.C. Highway 6 that officials think would serve a Stone Brewing operations facility well.

“The land would be ideal for a brewery,” he said. “It’s in the center of South Carolina.”

For the hospitality and retail side, officials envision downtown Lexington to be the place to welcome a Stone World Bistro. The town is in the midst of developing a retail center, called Project Icehouse, complete with restaurants and an amphitheater on West Main Street.

“It would be the magnet … and change the face of the entire community, not just Lexington,” Halfacre said.

Stone Brewing would not confirm how many proposals the company had received by the March 15 deadline.

“But we were pleased with the response we got,” said spokesperson Sabrina LoPiccolo. “We are currently evaluating them.”

Halfacre said he thinks Lexington County has a shot at landing the investment even when up against large cities like Myrtle Beach, which also is campaigning. He referenced the area’s available raw water resource in Lake Murray as one factor in Lexington’s favor.

“That’s a tremendous advantage,” he said.

Generating support from the community through social media is also a method local officials are using to show Stone Brewing that the region is serious about its recruitment — and buzz is building.

The chamber created a “Stone Brewing Co.: Come Experience Lexington” Facebook page on March 21 that already has more than 500 likes. Halfacre said countless people asked him about the project’s progress at the recent Oysters Down on the Farm chamber event.

“Everyone was bending my ear,” he said. “Social media is a very powerful tool to get the word out.”

The Chamber took advantage of the larger-than-normal turnout at the oyster roast to add to the pitch. About 450 people attended the event, and the Chamber staff filmed a few segments of the crowd as well as featured entertainer Trent Jeffcoat singing a jingle he wrote about Lexington County being the right place for Stone Brewing.

“We are putting it together now and will be sending it to them soon,” Halfacre said. “We hope it might go viral.”

LoPiccolo said it is too early to predict a date when company leaders will announce the site of the new eastern headquarters but said they want to be in the early stages of construction by the end of 2014.

The Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce invites all residents to like the Facebook page to grow the region’s profile.

Categories: Lexington County