Clustering Around a Beer Economy in Asheville

As Charles Heying recently posted, brewing beer for local or regional consumption can lead to spin-off economic activity. This fact is often overlooked.  When most people consider a beer economy, regional craft breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs dominate the subject. This is understandable as these physical spaces and the products produced therein are dominant focal points for such economic activity. Plus, the numbers and statistics reported to the media tell an impressive story of craft brewing’s ascendancy onto the larger national brewing landscape.

The Brewers Association notes that in 2010, while the overall US beer market was down 1% by volume, the craft brewing industry was up 11% by volume and 12% by retail dollars. Additionally, craft brewing provides an estimated 100,000 jobs in the country.

Impressive, but as the beer economy in Asheville, North Carolina demonstrates, this perspective may be only part of the story.

In his article, Beer is Big Business for Asheville Area, Jason Sandford examines the beer economy in the Asheville region and along with detailing its success in boosting tourism and job creation, highlights the linkages existing between the breweries and surrounding businesses. Local beer as an ingredient in gourmet mustard? Check. Shampoo and body wash made from local beer? Check.

Is Asheville’s beer economy alone in clustering? As Heying’s previous post observers… definitely not. Is Asheville’s beer economy cluster a new twist on the Napa Valley paradigm ready for application in regions where growing grapes may not be an option? Signs point to “yes.”

Craft brew spins off new industrial infrastructure

As we have discovered in Oregon with the craft brew industry, what was niche a few years ago is now a major contributor to our local economy. Craft brewers in Oregon directly employ 4,900 workers, 14.4 percent of the total beer consumed in Oregon is made in Oregon, 40% Percent of all draft beer consumed in Oregon is brewed in Oregon.

Craft brewing is also spinning off a cluster of complimentary industries. It has been an important factor in stimulating creativity in Oregon’s hops industry which was being abandoned by major brewers like ImBev and in creating a new hops brokerage for craft brewers located in Portland. Read the full story in Willamette Week’s “Beer of the Future” feature article.

It also encouraged the growth of a local artisan manufacturer, JVNW Inc, that began custom designing beer fermentation tanks, and now offers specialty stainless steel tanks for cosmetics, foods, pharmaceutical, wine and more, 100% locally made.

NPR’s Planet Money discovers the artisan economy

Friday, Feb 27 – NPR Morning Edition

Check out the Planet Money story on specialty beef jurky and an artisan spring manufacturer.  The take away (below) similar to what we concluded in Brew to Bikes  Full story here

“Even big manufacturers — like Toyota, General Electric, Dow Chemical — are focusing more of their business on custom-making products for customers willing to pay more. It’s one of the best alternatives to competing with China and other low-wage countries, which have perfected the commodity business of turning out lots and lots of identical products as cheaply as possible. Forget that model. In America, we can focus on craft. That’s where the money is, and that’s where the hope lies for American manufacturing.”

Portland’s artisan cool brings more attention

The Guardian newspaper has declared Portland the world center of hipster cool. READ HERE

“But In Other Words is not unusual for Portland, a city of 580,000 in America’s north west. While more conservative communities might blanche at public sex-toy making, in Portland it is a colourful part of life. The city is now the unofficial world capital of a hyper-liberal, artsy and environmentally conscious hipster lifestyle. It is one obsessed with everything organic and locally made. Bikes, trams and buses rule the roads, not cars. Its denizens are heavily tattooed, excessively pierced, and obsessed with local bands. They shop in co-ops and hate corporations.”


The Myth of Tech Innovation and Job Creation

Check out this fascinating NYT article,How the US Lost out on Iphone work“, on outsourcing and new flexible manufacturing at the outsized Foxconn cluster in China.  Explodes the myth of tech innovation as the route to more jobs in US.

Critics of the article claim that it underplayed the human cost.  This is something engaged in a new This American Life episode on Foxconn city