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2Towns Ciderhouse (copy)

2 Towns Ciderhouse, one of the state's most prolific producers of malted beverages, is one of several Benton County companies driving job growth in the beverage manufacturing sector.

The craft alcoholic beverage industry — from beer and wine to cider and spirits — is emerging as a new focal point in the Benton County economy, local economic development officials said on Tuesday.

That was one of the highlights of a quarterly report delivered at the Benton County Board of Commissioners’ work session by Tom Nelson and Kate Porsche of the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Office.

"Beverage manufacturing on its own is approaching 10 percent of all manufacturing in Benton County," Porsche said.

With companies like 2Towns Cider, Block 15 Brewing, 4 Spirits Distillery and Nectar Creek meadery leading the way, employment in the industry has roughly doubled from about 100 in 2010 to nearly 200 today.

Porsche pointed out that 2Towns is not only the top cider producer in Oregon but ranks sixth statewide if beer is also taken into account.

Like other businesses that sell goods and services outside the immediate area, food and beverage manufacturers are considered part of the traded sector, an important driver of economic activity.

"New dollars coming in is what stimulates growth in our employment and supports non-traded sector businesses as well," Porsche said.

At the behest of the Economic Development Advisory Board, Nelson and Porsche are pursuing a strategy to promote further growth in Benton County's emerging craft food and beverage cluster.

"Part of it is getting these folks who work in this world together, sharing ideas and looking for synergies," Porsche said.

Other areas of focus for 2018 include additional traded sector development, retention and expansion of existing businesses, exploration of a regional economic development strategy, reinvigorating the Main Street model for downtown businesses in Corvallis and the county's smaller communities, and promoting an urban renewal district for South Corvallis.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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