“The president of Clatsop Community College came to the brewery for a tour,” said Fort George co-owner, Chris Nemlowill. “That’s what started the conversation with Clatsop Economic Development Resources and the CEDR/SBDC Small Business Development Center,” he said.
Nemlowill first met with the executive director of CEDR – which is part of the College organization – and then with the CEDR/SBDC business counselor. “We needed to know what it cost to make a keg of Vortex (the brewery’s signature beer) in order to justify our expansion,” Nemlowill said. “That doesn’t sound difficult, but it is when you consider expenses like gas and electricity that have to be split between beer production and kitchen operations,” he explained. “Our CEDR/SBDC business counselor looked at our financials, ran our books through analytical software, and was able to figure out what each keg costs to produce. He also got us started on a quarterly inventory schedule that we’ve since ramped up to a monthly routine,” Chris added.
The entire Fort George Brewery expansion involved several entities, including the City of Astoria, Enterprise Cascadia, Bank of Astoria, Business Oregon, CEDR/SBDC and others. “Everyone was willing, as long as they knew everyone else was in 100 percent,” Chris said. “And if there was ever a question, our business counselor was there for us.” As an example, the counselor worked with Pacific Power to reduce the cost of converting the expansion space from single-phase to three-phase power. “That would have been a $40,000 expense we’d not budgeted,” Nemlowill said. “Our business counselor showed Pacific Power the long-term value of our electrical consumption in the new facility, and worked with them to make the conversion happen without wrecking the budget,” he added.
The Fort George Brewery expansion included the purchase and remodel of an old 30,000-square foot Chevrolet dealership adjacent to the existing pub (est. 2007); construction of a new outdoor seating area; purchase and installation of a canning line; and purchase and installation of additional brewing equipment. The project was made possible by low-interest loans, a grant, and a loan that is forgivable dependent on the brewery adding 12 jobs over a specified period. The new canning line has been operational for just a few months, and employees are already being added to support the brewery’s increased production capacity.
The brewery held a public grand opening of its expanded facility and new canning operation on March 29, 2011.