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Loudoun hops facility gets incentives grant for expansion

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), check recipient Jonathan Staples and Supervisor Sean Williams (R-Broad Run) participate in a grant ceremony at Black Hops Farm in Lucketts last year. Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
As part of an effort to boost the hops and rural industries in Loudoun, county supervisors matched a $40,000 grant for Black Hops Farm, LLC’s expansion.

The grant, part of the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, matched the fund in $39,700 in cash and a waiver of $300 in fees for planned construction of an on-farm hops processing facility in western Loudoun for drying and pelletizing.

County staff noted the additional $1.2 million worth of real property is likely to generate enough in tax revenue to cover the $40,000 from the grant in three years, according to county documents.

In November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Virginia’s $40,000 grant to the Lucketts facility’s project.

"I am pleased to announce that Virginia, thanks to this important investment by Black Hops Farm, will be home to the first commercial-scale hops processing operation in the Mid-Atlantic region," said McAuliffe at an event at Black Hops Farm at the time.

Last year, Loudoun was the first county to integrate a Virginia state law relaxing regulations on farm-based breweries. The county Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance allowing breweries and tasting rooms on land used to grow hops.

The ordinance and incentives grant for the hops facility’s expansion are both part of an effort to boost Loudoun’s production of hops as a whole.

“This will put us on the map and will incentivize the growth of hops all over the county because they’ll be closer to it. It’s hundreds of miles for another facility like this anywhere around,” said Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin). “These folks have made an investment in the county and I don’t know where this figure about part time jobs is, this is only part of the facility they’re building. They’re talking about their own farm brewery there as well … This is just the beginning.”

Loudoun supervisors voted 7-2 to approve the AFID grant match, Supervisors Ken Reed (R-Leesburg) and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) dissenting, at a July 15 meeting.

“Black Hops Farm, LLC understands that the single greatest limiting factor to significant hops production in Loudoun County is the inability to sustain the quality and function of the hops past the harvest season,” county documents state. “In addition, hops production has increased in Virginia due to the compatible climate, soil, landscape and an ever- growing demand from local home brewers and farm breweries.”

The county intends the grant to “light a fire” in rural Loudoun drawing other hops facilities and hops farmers to the area.

Black Hops is building the first regional hops facility in the state, according to Buddy Rizer, director of Loudoun’s Department of Economic Development. The facility both grows and processes hops and have agreed to buy 2,150 pounds of hops over their initial performance period, according to Rizer.

The facility buys hops from farmers all over the state, but the county makes sure Black Hops buys at least a portion from local farmers, Rizer said.

Reed was concerned that the grant set a precedent for other hops facilities to expect similar grants as incentive for coming into the county.

He also said the documentation stated the facility’s expansion would create 11 part-time positions rather than full-time.

“I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill, he said, “but I’m just not going to be able to support this.”

Reed likely referred to a section of the performance agreement between the county and Black Hops.

“The construction and operation of the Facility will further entail the creation of 11 PTPs at the Facility,” the document states.

Later in the documentation, the performance agreement states the farm has an obligation to “make Capital Investments at the Facility of at least $911,500, to create and Maintain at least 11 PTPs at the Facility, and to purchase at least 2,150 pounds of Virginia-grown hops … ”

Higgins and Chairman Scott York focused on the need in the county for the facility to increase Loudoun’s incentives for hops farmers and facilities.

“It is my hope that this will continue to accomplish what we want accomplished, not homes being built in clusters in the rural area but that the farming community be able to continue to expand their operations,” York said. “This is just a bigger piece of an important infrastructure and needed for this industry.”

Comments


Since you have a surplus in the budget how about giving me a grant and rescind the increased liquor tax?

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