The $2.8 million project includes expanding the brewery and updating equipment.
Members of the Development Authority of Cobb County’s three-member Grants Committee agreed Tuesday to give Marietta’s only microbrewery a $60,000 “retention grant,” which is funded with public money and aimed at keeping employers in the county.
That committee can approve grant requests between $50,000 and $100,000. Requests for grants fewer than $50,000 can be awarded by Nelson Geter, authority executive director, without approval of the committee or his 7-member board appointed by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.
Grants more than $100,000 must get the go-ahead from a majority of the authority board.
Red Hare’s bank agreed to back the project but required the beer company raise $500,000, Geter said. The company raised all but $100,000 on its own.
Committee Chairman Bob Morgan was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, but members Donna Rowe and Richard Moore voted to approve the grant request.
“I think this is a no brainer,” said Rowe, a Realtor who was appointed by Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.
Twenty new jobs is a strong return, Rowe said, on the authority’s $60,000 investment.
“It’s not only creating new jobs, it’s a tourist attraction as well,” said Moore, who was appointed by Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and works as managing director of external affairs for Atlanta-based AGL Resources. “I think we’ve got a double winner here.”
Geter said the grant helps support a local business. He expects Red Hare’s expansion to take at least a year.
Bobby Thomas, co-owner of the brewery, said the business had planned for large growth, but it’s still amazing to realize the company has grown so rapidly.
“We are surprised that it is actually working, but people like the good beer,” Thomas said.
In 2011, the first year of full production, Thomas said the brewery produced about 2,400 barrels. The next year that number skyrocketed to 5,200.
“I think people are ready for something new,” Thomas said. “They do like the beer. The beer is good.”
Red Hare began as a hobby in a Marietta basement, said Thomas, who founded the business alongside Roger Davis, and it’s continuing to develop.
“We expect huge growth next year and moderate growth this year,” Thomas said.
Red Hare recently partnered with Cobb-based Novelis to launch a line of craft beer packaged in the evercan, which contains at least 90 percent recycled aluminum. Novelis also received incentives from the Development Authority, which amounted to a $1.1 million bond inducement for personal property.
Some critics argue the public’s money should not be doled out to private corporations. Benita Dodd is vice president of the Cobb-based Georgia Public Policy Foundation and attended a tour of the brewery, which is offered several times each week, where she sampled Red Hare’s brews.
She supports the Marietta business and calls them a “great brewery” but said she has questions “about government making these decisions about who can be winners and losers.”
“I would question the need for taxpayer money to go to existing and thriving companies,” Dodd said. “I know that the Red Hare is thriving because I was just there a week ago.”
Red Hare would be able to flourish even more if state lawmakers would lift restrictions on small breweries that can hamper growth in Georgia, Dodd said.
“I think the best thing that government can do is get out of the way, not subsidize and use taxpayer dollars in that way,” Dodd said.