RICHMOND, Va. — Thirsty for jobs and good times, the city of Richmond is vowing to build a brewery on the James River.
The estimated $36 million tab includes $5 million from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s “Opportunity Fund.”
If approved by the City Council, most of the money will be raised with a general revenue bond, which puts the city’s taxpayers on the hook if the Stone Brewing Co. venture goes bust.
Details remain sketchy, and that has skeptics wondering if the city will see a replay of the stalled downtown baseball stadium project touted by Mayor Dwight Jones.
“There is no free lunch,” said Paul Goldman, a Richmond lawyer and longtime civic activist. “The public is in a ‘show-me’ mode.”
So far, there hasn’t been much to see. In announcing the project, local leaders and California-based Stone executives provided only a sketchy outline: a city-built brewery that Stone would lease back over time and hire 288 workers.
The cost works out to $125,000 per employee.
Richmond beat out Norfolk, Va., and Columbus, Ohio, to become the San Diego craft brewer’s Eastern outlet.
Columbus offered Stone tax abatements and incentives totaling $3.3 million over about 10 years. Norfolk officials would not disclose what they offered.
Tea partyer Ron Wilcox has questions.
“All this Virginia tax money and they could not find a Virginia-based firm? So they are sending our tax dollars to California?” asks the lead organizer of the Northern Virginia Tea Party.
“It sounds like a case study of crony capitalism, with the taxpayer ponying up even the tax revenues that would be generated to the company,” Wilcox said.