Freetown courts Sam Adams, with state aid

The world wants more Samuel Adams beer, and the Boston Beer Co. is looking for ways to meet the demand. For the people of Freetown, Mass., a particularly enticing option being considered is a new, 250,000-square-foot brewery in the town.
If built, the facility would produce a million barrels of beer per year.
“This would be huge for not just the town but the region. It would mean 140 new jobs for the area, and it’s a great company to work for,” said Lawrence N. Ashley, chairman of the board of selectmen in Freetown. “And the tax revenue that we’d receive from a company like this would be hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
But it’s not a done deal. A new brewery would cost $170 million to $210 million, said Boston Beer Co. spokeswoman Michelle Sullivan, so the company is looking at other possibilities.
“We’re evaluating what our best long-term brewing options would be,” she said. “Other options would be to buy one of several breweries that are on the market [she said she’s not at liberty to discuss locations], to rent time at existing breweries, or to look at the possibility of expanding either the [company’s] Boston or Cincinnati brewery.”
But if a new brewery is built, the company has “zeroed in on the site in Freetown,” she said.
The location of interest is 50 acres of vacant land in an industrial park owned by Campanelli Co. It is off Exit 9 on Route 24 across from a Stop & Shop Supermarkets distribution center.
“It’s right off the highway and has a rail passing nearby,” said Ashley.
Sullivan said the company had spent a year and a half going through “a very intense process” of searching for sites in the New England area before deciding that the Freetown spot was the best choice.
And although the final decision on the project is not expected until the end of the summer, the company has had a purchase and sale agreement on the property since last summer.
The town also did some legwork last summer by holding a public meeting where residents approved a 20-year tax increment financing plan that would give the brewery a 33-percent tax break.
In addition, town officials have completed a site plan review and applied for and received a $2.5 million grant from the Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion Jobs Capital program to help pay for roadway improvements and two miles of water and sewer lines that would have to be installed to run from the brewery to Fall River’s system. (Freetown has fewer than 9,000 residents and therefore doesn’t have its own sewer system.)
“The funds from these grants will create short-term construction jobs as the infrastructure improvements are under way, and once a company relocates or expands, longer-term jobs will be created,” said Bob Coughlin, undersecretary for business development for the Mass. Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, in a news release. “The state is essentially making a public investment to attract larger private investments while simultaneously creating new jobs.”
And although the total cost for these lines would be $5 million, Ashley said the town is also applying for more state grants to cover the cost.
“We’re doing everything we can. We have a lot of people trying to move this along,” he said. “This would be a real win for us.”
He added that Fall River also would benefit from the sewer fee income, a good thing at a time when a major local employer, the Quaker Fabric Corp., is closing.
But Sullivan said that while Boston Beer Co. appreciates the state’s and the town’s support, the company is still not ready to make a commitment.
“If we move forward on building the brewery, that grant would be extremely helpful, but it’s important to note that the total investment would be $170 million to $210 million to build the brewery,” she said. “So it helps with the economics somewhat, but it’s a huge investment.”

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