North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper spoke at a Teamsters rally outside of the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, N.C., and indicated that the state is investigating the Big Beer company’s decision to close the brewery.
MillerCoors announced plans to close the Eden brewery in September 2015, just two days before merger talks between AB InBev (ABI) and SABMiller (SAB) became public. SAB and Molson Coors are co-owners of MillerCoors.
The Eden brewery is a large and efficient facility that accounts for approximately 12.5 percent of MillerCoors’ beer production and nearly 4 percent of the entire U.S. beer market. The Teamsters believe that the timing of the closure announcement was not accidental, and the closure, if it takes place, may lead to higher beer prices.
Cooper stated that his office has sent investigative demands and set up meetings with the companies involved. He also indicated that the state is working with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is overseeing the antitrust investigation of the ABI/SAB merger.
“This shutdown will be devastating for the brewery workers, their families and our whole community,” said Vernon Gammon, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 391, which represents the Eden brewery employees.
Cooper echoed the Teamsters’ concern about job losses.
“This community and our entire state will suffer because of the loss of these good-paying jobs,” Cooper said.
If MillerCoors does not want to operate the facility, both Cooper and Teamster officials encouraged the company to find a buyer willing to keep good jobs in North Carolina. MillerCoors alerted Eden employees today that it plans to begin layoffs in June. Heck, maybe one of those potential buyers could even be a new prospective craft brewer. Remember that Greensboro, N.C., restaurateur and developer Marty Kotis said he’s thinking of opening a small craft brewery in Eden.
Kotis said he is not sure when his company would install the brewery in the 15,000-square-foot building he bought earlier this year in Eden’s Leaksville community.
“There’s not a craft brewery in the Southeast that can brew that much beer,” Kotis said. In fact, he explained, all of the craft breweries added together couldn’t make that much beer.
He said even before the closure was announced, he considered Rockingham County to be an ideal spot for a brewery.
Rockingham Community College offers brewery training programs and the workforce is already full of available people with long years of brewing experience.