By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — DeWitt’s economy has been thriving. Its unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, 0.7 percent less than the national average, with a job growth of 2.82 percent, and a future job growth predicted to be 40 percent over the next 10 years, according to Sperling’s Best Places.
Families are moving here for the city’s schools, parks and developing downtown. Part of this development is an incoming microbrewery.
“We are working with a developer on locating a microbrew in the downtown; Looking Glass Brewery,” said DeWitt City Administrator Daniel Coss. “They are in the process of trying to secure some Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG) for Job Creation through the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC).”
“If they can get that financing, it will help bridge the gap between the funds they have available and the total cost of the project,” said Coss. “Currently, there is about a $350,000 gap in financing for the project.”
According to Coss, along with acquiring the funds, Looking Glass Brewery will also have to get liquor licenses from the State of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to brew their beer.
“I am not sure of the exact fees for both those licenses,” said Coss, “But they are somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 total.”
The microbrewery is planning to purchase a former church on 115 N Bridge St, as stated by Coss. The building sits next door to popular DeWitt business, Scooby Doo’s Old Fashion Ice Cream Shop.
“City Council approved the sale of the property to the owners of the brewery and are fully supportive of the business,” said Coss.
According to an article on Bolstr, craft breweries make up 98 percent of the brewing industry as a whole in the United States.
As the article goes on to say, the growth in popularity of craft breweries also has a positive economic impact. In 2014, the craft brewing industry contributed $55.7 billion to the U.S. economy and created more than 424,000 jobs.
In total, the U.S. beer industry adds $252 million in economic activity and 1.75 million jobs, which accounts for about 1.5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
“I think [Looking Glass Brewery coming in] is exciting, because the modern world is not just microbreweries, but these craft beers,” said Family Tree Cafe Owner Tim Russell. “When we put our draft beers system in, right away, the craft beers outsold the domestics.”
Total craft beer sales beat out the U.S. sales for Budweiser for the first time last year, according to Bolstr. This shows that craft beer is going to play a significant role in the U.S. beer market. If large breweries like Miller Coors want to stay at the top, they’ll have to pay close attention to smaller business contributors in the market.
“The guy who installed our draft beer system said, ‘Oh yeah, your craft beers are going to outsell your domestics,’” said Russell. “There are occasionally people that like their domestics, like Miller Lite and Bud Lite, but wow, he was not kidding.”
According to information from the Brewers Association, Michigan is ranked the 6th beer state in the United States, having about 159 craft breweries. The economic impact of the craft brewing industry in Michigan is about $1.85 billion, or $260.03 per capita.
“I welcome [Looking Glass Brewery], because I think if we were to make this downtown DeWitt’s flame, then it’ll draw more moths to that flame, and that’s a good thing for everybody down here,” said Russell.
Coss says he hopes the owners of Looking Glass Brewery will receive their proper funds in the next 60 to 90 days. He has been working with Looking Glass Brewery owner, Joel Dillingham, for about 15 months, and says the estimated timeline for this business to be operational is approximately one to one and a half years.
Due to a lot of factors, including ease of entering into the industry and and the interest the market has had in recent years, according to data provided by the Brewers Association, if the Looking Glass Brewery were to successfully get its funding and open, it would have a high rate of success.
“If we can get the financing in place, the brewery will be a welcome addition to our downtown,” said Coss. “We believe it will create a destination location and potentially be a catalyst for future developments and new businesses.”