New Belgium and the Political Incentive Game

Let's talk about our big neighbors across the river - the ones for whom all of this riverfront redevelopment would not be possible, New Belgium.

We all know that cities and towns vy for the attention of big corporations and their dollars. In case you don't know, we do not support tax incentives for corporations. Myself nor my husband have ever received tax incentives in our businesses.  He has had to build each and every aspect of his properties without the help and assistance of the City of Asheville or anyone else.  Giving and taking incentives is what  gets us into the messes we are in.  We have seen what it does to a community when a community sells itself to a corporation.

Hypocrisy in action
Everyone, including those like Holly Jones, will tell you, "I am not a fan of the tax incentive game. However, it is a necessary evil local policy-makers must engage in if our community is going to be able to compete."  Source:

In the case of New Belgium, who on the record has received $8.5 million from Buncombe County and $3.5 million from the City, we wonder if we really needed to compete after all?  No, the deciding factor in New Belgium's selection of Asheville was the transportation.  They wanted a "multimodal" transportation system for their employees and they wanted proper truck routes for their deliveries.  No where do they mention tax incentives as the reason for their coming to Asheville.

In this article by Top Fermented, he discusses tax incentives for New Belgium in 2011, before they ever announced Asheville as their east coast site.  He is no fan of New Belgium because of what they do to small breweries.

New Belgium is essentially becoming the Wal-Mart of the beer industry and they are now in Asheville. Unlike Wal-Mart, they offer fabulous perks (trips to New Belgium, free bikes, etc.) Heck, I would love to work there.  Let's just hope they don't get bought out by the real big guys.  It would have been better to have Budweiser brewing because they're not considered a microbrewery and would not have been competitive with the other local craft microbreweries.  New Belgium is the 4th largest brewer of craft beer IN THE UNITED STATES and the 8th LARGEST BREWERY IN THE UNITED STATES.
Invasive marketing tactics:"They also have some of the most invasive marketing and distribution tactics I’ve seen in craft. When New Belgium pushes into markets (as they recently did in North Carolina) with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns and sponsorship deals, small, local breweries cannot possibly hope to compete with them. Who sponsors the “local beer, local band” night around the corner from me? New Belgium. Who sells beer at the “Best of the Indy” parties? New Belgium. Who has been at every freakin’ local event before almost every local craft brewery? New Belgium. Why? Because in a morally dubious pay-to-play environment, they have the cash to pay – and pay a LOT – where small local breweries do not.
Is New Belgium the only brewery who does this? No. Good heavens, no. But in North Carolina, they were nowhere one day and everywhere the next, forcefully filling the niche I would have expected a lot of local breweries to fill. While most of that is their distribution partner, New Belgium also doesn’t seem to be in any sort of rush to stop those practices, either. 
Small business crushing competitorThe local breweries in Asheville, along with its craft-beer-loving populace, have already brought country-wide attention and recognition to the area. Asheville has earned the moniker “Beer City USA” not because of its tax breaks, but because of its (stay with me here, this might get complex) beer. Why on earth would you, as a city council, make it easier to bring a small-business-crushing competitor to town?  
We couldn't have said it any better:
Tax breaks for incoming industries only make sense when you’re enticing an industry that doesn’t already exist into an area that economically depressed. Neither of these conditions seem true in Asheville.
Here’s the thing: If New Belgium is going to open a brewery in North Carolina, they’ll do it whether or not there’s a tax incentive thrown at them. They’re coming, and the best thing that we can possibly do is fortify our local industry so that we can welcome them as an equal level competitor, an enrichment of the local market. Giving them tax breaks that our local businesses do not enjoy is just inviting a fox into the hen house.

The question becomes - who is going to keep New Belgium accountable to their promises? As far as sustainability, this company is outstanding.  But they made the promise that 150 jobs were going to come from the area.  Who is going to oversee that?  Are we sure that they are not transplanting people here from Fort Collins?  I've met one person who was relocated here by New Belgium.  How many more are there or are they really going to hire from the Asheville workforce?

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