Where the Action Is

Asheville recognized by the Wall Street Journal for its support of entrepreneurs in the craft brewing industry.

By EMILY MALTBY

Location matters.

New industry hubs are drawing entrepreneurs and offering start-ups support and safety in a turbulent economy.

ob-pf857_smhubc_g_20110819162420It’s a lesson that’s all too easy to forget in a world driven by mobile devices, cloud computing and home offices. There are big benefits to setting up shop in the right spot—especially among lots of peers in the same field.

All in all, these clusters can be ideal spots for an entrepreneur in the field. Being there means getting access to a much wider range of suppliers, customers, employees and industry experts. What’s more, industry peers are often willing to support each other as they get off the ground, sharing recommendations about staffers, potential sales leads and attractive office space, or giving each other guidance and insight about the industry. To read the entire article CLICK HERE

ASHEVILLE, N.C.

BEER BREWING

Craft beer is a small industry, but it has a devoted customer base. One Southern town is going after those fans with vigor.

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John Warner

Asheville, a Blue Ridge Mountain town of 75,000, has 10 breweries, with two on the way. That can’t compare with the 40 in Portland, Ore., but it stacks up to other beer havens like Milwaukee and Boulder, Colo., which both have fewer than a dozen. “Asheville is definitely on the map and well recognized in the craft-brewing industry,” says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association in Boulder.

Entrepreneurs new to the area seek mentoring from the established brewmasters and the Asheville Brewers Alliance, formed to exchange ideas and promote the industry. They also tap Blue Ridge Food Ventures, an incubator for developing and commercializing products.

Competition among the breweries is a key driver of growth. “Every time a new brewery opens, it has to create its own creative edge, and then the other breweries have to be creative to become relevant again,” explains Bill Drew, owner and brewmaster at Craggie Brewing Co. “So it’s good when the new guys come in; it keeps the old guys on their toes.”

In fact, the beer culture has permeated the town, with a host of businesses cooking up beer-flavored edibles and artists making tap handles and bottle labels. The environment gives brewers a place to source ingredients and fuel creativity. “By local companies teaming together, it’s pretty much a win-win,” Mr. Drew says.