North Miami Looks To Get Out Of Craft Beer Desert
All photos by Phil Galewitz
North Miami Beach, Florida seems to have it all: Tropical weather, a giant lakefront park with close access to professional sports teams, trendy restaurants and nightlife in nearby Miami and Miami Beach. But this city of 45,000 people which has one of highest percentage of Haitian populations in the United States is a craft beer desert.
While successful breweries such as J. Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing have opened in Miami and Funky Buddha and LauderAle in Fort Lauderdale — bringing jobs and wide customer base--- North Miami has been left out in the cold.
But city leaders are determined to change that. Its offering up to $500,000 in tax breaks or grants to attract a brewery to move or expand into the city. They hope a brewery can fuel the economic engine of the city, attracting more visitors and other employers.
“Breweries today are kind of seen as pioneers that set up in up and coming areas,” said Kevin Crowder, economic development director of the Redevelopment Management Association, a consulting firm that is working closely with the city in the brewery search.
Breweries have come a long way in the past decade in terms of proving their worth to local government officials, he said. Alcohol-related business used to be viewed with suspicion and caution, but craft breweries have now become known for becoming community gathering places —and not just for young singles, but for families with small children, older adults. “It really just shows how craft breweries are viewed as redevelopment and economic development tools,” Crowder said. As examples he points to places as diverse as downtown Indianapolis and the Texas Hill Country.
Crowder was at the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington in April helping to spread the word that North Miami was ripe for a brewery to open and had a lot to offer to help make it happen. North Miami is not the first government entity to reach out to attract a brewery, though most efforts have involved eastern states trying to attract large western breweries looking to expand on the other coast.
In the past few years, Virginia and North Carolina have battled to offer financial incentives to breweries, with both scoring victories, including California-based Sierra Nevada and Colorado-based New Belgium which both expanded into Asheville, N.C. and California-based Stone Brewing and Ballast Point expanding to Richmond and Virginia Beach, respectively.
San Diego, which is one of top cities in the country for craft breweries, was one of earliest cities to invest in the industry. In 2012, the city reached a deal with two local brewers, AleSmith and Ballast Point. Both brewers needed to expand and were looking at new properties outside the city, so San Diego lawmakers offered a tax cut on future sales to entice them to stay.
In 2014, craft breweries added $55 billion to the U.S. economy and it's one of the few fast growing manufacturing industries, said Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association. But he said cities, counties and states see more than just jobs from attaching to the craft brewery wagon chugging across the country. “Craft breweries are community gathering places and help build a sense of community that people identify with,” he said. “They act as magnets to an area bringing in foot traffic and getting people to an area of town they otherwise would not go to.”
That’s not the case for all 6,000 breweries across the country but it is for many of them including Funky Buddha which opened in 2013 near a quiet part of Oakland Park, just north of Fort Lauderdale and Due South Brewing which opened in 2014 in a light industrial park in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Local governments are also attracted to breweries because they often can move into existing and unoccupied buildings, helping to remove blight, Watson said. See recent stories in AlcoholProfessor about old churches and fire stations turned into craft breweries. “From a policymaker and local government point of view they see the growth of craft brewing and do not see it as a bubble that is about to burst but as an investment that will return a value.”
In North Miami, Crowder said interest from breweries has been strong and he hopes to have a brewery to announce by end of this summer and a new brewery making beers and serving beers by 2019. “While there is a little caution about some over-saturation in the brewery market in some cities, that is not the case here in Florida where there is still a lot of opportunity,” he said.