The Right Place Inc. and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. make a dynamic duo. Last December, the two economic development organizations collaborated on a $2 million grant for Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Co. The grant enabled Founders to move forward on its $26 million expansion, which has hopes of generating 52 new jobs for the area over three years.
“Founders Brewing Co. is a shining star in Grand Rapids, not only from a consumer standpoint but also with regard to economic development,” said Susan Jackson last December, senior business development manager at The Right Place. “This expansion confirms that Grand Rapids continues to find a niche in the craft brewing industry.”
Now The Right Place and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) are teaming up again to help spur the craft brewing industry in the Wolverine State. This time, Michigan hops growers will be the recipient. The Right Place (a West Michigan economic development agency) has secured $20,000 from MEDC to study expanded cultivation of Michigan-grown hops, aimed at supplying the booming craft beer industry’s supply chain in the state.
West Michigan’s unique soil, climate, weather and abundance of fresh water make it an ideal location for a full spectrum of hop farmers, their partners and suppliers.
According to an excellent article posted yesterday on MLive.com (a locals-focused website dedicated to serving readers and businesses in Michigan), The Right Place is working on the creation of a new statewide cooperative organization among growers of hops that will help institute across-the-board quality standards for cultivation of the crop.
“The group includes representatives of from the Michigan Brewers Guild, as well as hops farmers from the Northern, mid and West Michigan regions … In the last five years, cultivation of hops has grown from nothing to about 200 acres this year at five facilities around the state. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to Pacific Northwest states like Washington, Idaho and Oregon, where more than 30,000 acres of hops are in production. Michigan currently ranks fifth in the nation in terms of total breweries in state and the vast majority of brewers here source their hops from those states.”
Michigan currently cultivates an excellent variety of homegrown hops: Brewer’s Gold, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Fuggle, Glacier, U.S. Golding, Mt. Hood, Nugget, Perle, Willamette and beyond. It seems like growing more of these hops locally for Michigan’s breweries would be a big cost savings to state brewhouses, but those facts are still out (thus the study).
According to the MLive article: “The cost savings for brewers would likely come on the transportation side because the smaller volume of Michigan-grown hops make it harder for farmers to compete on price with the Pacific states due to the economies of scale factor.”