There are incubators for all types of fledgling businesses, but now the Babylon IDA has announced it will be providing space for a new type of entrepreneur: craft beer brewers.
In an announcement earlier this month, IDA Chief Executive Officer Matthew T. McDonough said the IDA will purchase, revitalize and equip a former missile-component test facility at 1305 Strong Ave., Copiague into the state's first business incubator dedicated to craft beer.
"Long Island has the resources to accommodate a booming craft beer industry and the Town of Babylon IDA is well suited to provide assistance with regard to property and equipment to facilitate the industry's success," said McDonough.
Craft brewers are those who produce less than 6 million barrels of beer a year and who operate without control or oversight of a big beer conglomerate.
According to a report by the industry trade group, Brewers Association, American craft brewers today produce about one out of every 10 beers sold in the United States, and craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels last year, an increase of 18 percent from a year ago, according to Fortune.com.
In addition, there is growth in the market of small and independent brewers who now make up 11 percent of the total beer market. This is the first time that independent brewers made up a double-digit market share.
In New York State, the craft beer industry has grown by 54 percent between 2011 and 2013, and the number of brewers has more than doubled since 2012.
It's that growing trend that prompted a recent change in state law, the Farmhouse Brewery Law, to allow producers to sell individual pints of beer in tasting rooms, much like wine is sold and enjoyed in wineries. Prior to the change, beer consumers had to purchase a minimum of 64 ounces of beer, fill up and leave the premises.
"Brewers love to talk about their passion for what they brew, similar to the way wine growers talk about their grapes and wine," said McDonough. "The change in the law now allows these brewers to offer small tastings of their beer and experience them on tap."
The IDA plans to acquire the property, which currently has a $1 million back tax bill and $750,000 DEC cleanup bill, and replace the existing 25,000 square-foot industrial building with a similarly sized structure complete with individual working spaces for up to 10 different brewers. They will have access to a tasting room for customer visits and a shared production space with equipment for small- to mid-sized operations. The existing structure on site has been blighted for more than 30 years with constant vandalism and recent fire hazards, pointed out McDonough.
"We are impressed with the proposal and are excited by its potential to add jobs, drive economic growth and enhance community togetherness throughout the Town," said Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer. "The plans the IDA has proposed, to both remove this long-standing blight and build an immaculate facility have been met with positive feedback from residents, community leaders and local craft beer brewers."
McDonough said IDA officials have reached out to the residents in the area as well as local community groups to outline their plan and get support for the project.
Lindenhurst Village Administrator/Clerk Shawn Culinane said Lindenhurst Mayor Thomas Brennan met with Town and IDA officials and was given a comprehensive outline of the proposal.
"He and the entire Village Board view this as a positive move," said Culinane. "This building has been an eyesore in the area for a long time and we believe the change will have economic benefits for the entire area."
The incubator is expected to provide 50 new jobs including the brewers themselves and their staff, as well as the management, janitorial and clerical employees to be hired for the day-to-day operations of the site.
The IDA generally provides funding opportunities and tax incentives to major corporations. With this proposal, it is focusing attention on the small businessperson.
"Small businesses drive the economy," said McDonough. "They are the ones that hire college grads, and retirees and they are an integral part of our local economy so, we are very excited about this project."
But there are other economic benefits, said McDonough.
"The site is on the border of Copiague and Lindenhurst and what we envision is having people go there, tasting the beer and then going to one of the two downtowns for dinner or to take advantage of local entertainment the towns have to offer," he said.
The IDA would own the facility, a $12 million investment, and lease the space to the brewers for up to five years. The IDA is also seeking several state and federal partners for more funding, including Empire State Development, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the US Economic Development Association.
It expects to complete the funding plan by November, sign contracts following that, and then demo the old building and put in the foundation and steel for the new building by the end of the year. Construction would begin in the spring and the incubator should be up and running by this time next year, said McDonough. "That is our optimal time line."
For information on the Babylon Brewery Incubator Project, go to www.thebabylonbrewery.com.