Chamber Vision 2025: Wineries, breweries and distilleries as economic drivers

The Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce identified destination management as a key component to attracting, retaining and expanding business and the workforce those businesses support as part of its Vision 2025 project, announced in August 2017.

In the quest for economic growth and talent recruitment, it’s all about location, and the needs of the talent pool in this area are shifting. Place making — destination — is increasingly the deciding choice for highly-sought candidates rather than the job itself, according to chiefexecutive.net. This is particularly true for the Millennial and Gen X generations of business owners.

What is this talent pool looking for when making a decision? Many of the usual things, but with one extra consideration. They are looking for something to do as part of their work/life balance. Many people in this workforce like bicycling to work, access to outdoor activities and, importantly, enjoying live music at a venue serving locally-sourced food and craft beer, wine or spirits.

As the chamber envisions developing Federal Way as a unique business destination with regionally connected opportunity, we look to the development of the multi-billion dollar industries of wineries, breweries and distilleries. These powerful economic engines will add value to business efforts to recruit talent and welcome the wealth generated by an innovation economy.

According to the National Association of American Wineries, the U.S. wine industry contributes more than 1.7 million direct and indirect full-time jobs across the country. The state of Washington is a top producer for the industry, ranking fifth for economic impact.

In 2016, Washington produced approximately 17.5 million cases of wine, with a record harvest of 270,000 tons. Our state is focused on the premium wine market segment, according to washingtonwine.org, and had a total economic impact of $2 billion.

Clearly, wine is a steady growth industry for Washington. There are 250 wine grape growers, 14 American viticultural areas and more than 900 wineries — one of which is in Federal Way. The chamber is pleased to note that the city’s first winery, Abbe Vineyards, is not only part of our business network, but also of Washington’s economic base.

Craft breweries also are a growth industry in the United States. Washington statistics show there are 334 breweries in the state, producing 467,270 barrels of craft beer per year with an overall economic impact of $1.8 billion. The Brewer’s Association notes that the Washington brewery industry is ranked in the top 20 for economic impact, impact per capita, production and gallons sold per 21-plus adults.

Craft breweries appeal to both the existing and incoming talent pools. Craft breweries are small brewers who tend to be involved in their communities through philanthropy and sponsorship.

“The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation,” notes craftbeer.com. “Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.”

Importantly, the business characteristics of craft brewers match those of a knowledge-based workforce and a creative class, both of which the chamber expects to be drawn to the area with the Performing Arts and Event Center and the light rail station. There are currently 20 microbreweries between Seattle and Tacoma. None are located in Federal Way.

The workforce that embraces wineries and breweries also enjoys the craft spirits market. In its 2016 Economic Briefing, the Distilled Spirits Council notes steady growth in the craft spirits industry as consumers look for brands with authentic, interesting backstories. That demand for spirits has increased, and cocktails are positioned to meet the search of an adult workforce for different craft spirit experiences.

There are 126 distilleries in Washington, none of them in Federal Way. This is surprising since, according to the Washington Post, no state has birthed more craft distilleries than Washington, largely due to state laws that support the growth of this industry.

Additionally, wineries, breweries and distilleries pair well with local food movements, spurring additional job creation in the hospitality and retail industry segments, which are strong components in the city’s current economic base.

Managing Federal Way as a destination that attracts talent and welcomes business expansion demands that we think beyond what we’ve always done and strategically consider what could be. Consider, within these three economically thriving industries in the state of Washington, Federal Way has only one business.

As our Vision 2025 project looks to its focus areas of workforce and destination, the chamber supports the city and its Planning Commission in the revision of regulatory requirements so that wineries, breweries and distilleries can take root in Federal Way.

Rebecca Martin is the CEO for the Greater Federal Way Chamber Commerce.

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