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Wisconsin brewer to buy Memphis bottling facility

A Wisconsin brewing company said Wednesday it plans to buy a tornado-stricken bottling plant in Memphis, a $41 million venture that will employ 500 people.
City Brewing Co. plans to purchase the Hardy Bottling facility for $30 million and will invest another $11 million to update the plant and restart beer production, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and company officials said.
City Brewing CEO George Parke said the company hopes to begin beer production at the Memphis facility in July, if all the proper licenses are approved. As a contract beverage producer, City Brewing makes and packages beer, tea and energy drinks for large beverage companies.
Parke said the company was looking for a third facility because its other locations in the Wisconsin cities of Latrobe and La Crosse are at or near capacity. The Memphis facility will be renamed Blues City Brewery.
Operations at its Wisconsin facilities are not expected to be affected, Parke said. The deal is expected to close at the end of April.
The company is receiving a $5.7 million tax break over 15 years. City and county governments are estimated to generate $33.5 million in revenue from the project over the 15 years, according to the Memphis/Shelby County Industrial Development Board.
The plant was built in 1971 and has been owned by the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. and Stroh Brewery Co. Carolyn Hardy and other investors bought the plant from Molson Coors in 2006 for $9 million.
A tornado damaged the plant in February 2008. It currently bottles only non-alcoholic beverages.
Wharton praised the company for bringing the much-needed jobs to Memphis. He said the improved facility could help revitalize the Hickory Hill neighborhood where it's located.
"Most people that I run into wake up and say, 'Can you find me a place to go to work today?'" Wharton said. "This answers that request."
The company said the new jobs are expected to create an average wage of $41,705 per year and include a benefits package.
31 Mar. 2011

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