The business of Minneapolis is … beer

I went on a tour of a great Minneapolis business today that reminded me once again that the business of Minneapolis, at least in part, is beer. 

J.J. Taylor is the largest beer distributor in Minnesota, moving 7,000,000 cases of beer a year. The company’s roots are in Minneapolis — their predecessor began in Northeast in 1933, right after Prohibition ended — but in recent years, they had been based in Arden Hills. Then three years ago, they moved back into Northeast Minneapolis, into a much larger facility in the Mid-City Industrial Area that many people will remember as the old Dayton’s furniture warehouse, and have invested several million dollars to upgrade it. 

J.J. Taylor is a good employer, too: their 245 employees (nearly half of whom are unionized Teamsters) earn an average of $56,000 a year, with good benefits. Not surprisingly, they have high seniority and very low turnover.

And they’re good citizens: they pay $14 million a year in federal, state and local taxes and play a big role in fighting underage drinking and alcohol addition.

Plus, a business’s moving from Arden Hills to Minneapolis is a direction that I like. 

Then on Friday, I will attend the grand opening of Fulton Beer’s new brewery in Minneapolis, where they will also sell growlers and give tours. Fulton is now our second brewery in town, joining Harriet Brewing, which earlier this year became the first non-brewpub brewery in Minneapolis since Grain Belt closed in 1975. 

One of the most important things we did at the City to help these breweries get started was simply to get out of the way. Before last year, City ordinances did not allow for the on-site sale of growlers (half-gallon jugs) of beer — but for small brewers like Harriet and Fulton, that’s an important way to make money. So we changed City ordinance to make it possible, and these brewers have followed. Fulton’s new brewery is creating eight new jobs in Minneapolis’ growing craft-beer industry.

Then earlier this year, we changed City ordinance again to make it possible for small and mid-size brewers to sell pints right at their breweries. Fulton plans to open a tap room next year — and I hope Surly Brewing will join them in Minneapolis very soon.

Beer is big business in Minnesota: the beer industry — brewers, distributors and retailers — employs more than 17,000 people, generates more than $2.7 billion in economic impact, and pays more than $155 million in taxes each year.

In Minneapolis, beer — like healthy, fresh, local food — is good business: brewing, distributing and retailing beer is putting people to work in good jobs and is making a big contribution to our growing restaurant and bar scene that is deservedly getting national attention. Beer is a big part of our history, and it’s big part of our future.

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