Governor McAuliffe, stung by legislative setbacks that he foresaw when he campaigned saying that he didn’t want to be Governor if he faced a veto-proof General Assembly, is going to his advertised strong suit: jobs. It’s a gamble. And he’s playing a high profile hand with Stone Brewing.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m excited. I have worked this like a dog.” – Governor McAuliffe
Stone Brewing wants to expand East Coast sales. A brewery located on our side of the Mississippi expands presence and reduces shipping costs. The potential sites for the new brewery have been narrowed to Ohio and Virginia. Each state has its own transportation advantages with Ohio arguably better situated. But only Virginia allows sales of Stone Brewing’s higher alcohol by volume (ABV) content brews.
There is something of an irony here. The competition is between Ohio and its Republican Governor, John Kasich and Virginia and our Democratic Governor. But it is Ohio’s Republican legislature that stands in the way of Ohio’s successful courtship of this employment plum.
“Stone Brewing expects to invest up to $60 million in its east coast brewery which will include a restaurant and retail area. The company anticipates 375 jobs would be created over 5 years.” – WOSU Public Media
Last December, Ohio state Democratic Representative Dan Ramos introduced a bill that would adjust the allowed ABV content, removing that obstruction, if it really is one, from consideration. It had bipartisan support and an almost equal number of the 21 cosponsors from each party. But this will be familiar to Virginians: Ramos’s House Bill (HB) 391 went to committee where it has since languished.
From what Stone Brewing has announced about the decision to locate, one can deduce that Ohio is the preferred location. The anticipated announcement allows time for Ohio legislative action on HB 391 but action has been slow coming. For once a Republican legislature may offer Governor McAuliffe an advantage. Sadly it isn’t Virginia’s.
As objectionable as this kind of thing is, there is wording in Ohio HB 391 that makes it clear that this is a contract between Stone Brewing and Ohio. It adjusts the ABV content from 12% to 21% which encompasses the range of Stone Brewing’s product line. It also doesn’t go into effect until a year after passage, about the time Stone could begin production. That ensures no other brewery could take advantage of a new niche market while Stone would be at a competitive disadvantage. If HB 391 passes, it is as good as or better than a tax incentive from the state.
The next session of the Ohio House of Representatives is scheduled for 12 November. Committee hearings are not scheduled until 25 November. From that, the earliest the Ohio House and Senate could possibly act if the bill is reported out of committee is 2 or 3 December. That falls within the decision window of “weeks to months” announced by Stone Brewing, further telegraphing Stone’s preference for Ohio.
So the Governor of Virginia has his work cut out for him if he is going to tree this prey. And to some extent, the bragging rights for his first year in office may rest on the outcome. Abandoning a number of constituencies along the way, there’s not a whole lot else to point to.