Escanaba says yes to Bell’s Brewery

ESCANABA – Escanaba welcomed a new business to the city not only with words but through action Thursday. Just prior to unanimously approving a property sale to Bell’s Brewery, council reduced the price tag by $5,000.

Larry Bell, owner of the craft beer manufacturing company, had intended to pay $35,000 for a 3.16-acre parcel in the Whitetail Industrial Park but was pleased with the last-minute price reduction when council acted on the sale during Thursday’s special meeting.

“Things like that don’t happen in the business world,” commented Bell. “Talk about the welcome carpet! That was very kind.”

Council member Ron Beauchamp made the motion to lower the selling price of the city land from $35,000 to $30,000.

“I’d like to see the property price reduced,” Beauchamp said. “I’d like to see this be even more business-friendly.”

Council unanimously approved the deal.

Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole commented after the meeting, “By council lowering the purchase price, that sends a message that the city of Escanaba is in business to do business. It demonstrates Escanaba’s willingness to work with manufacturers to locate here.”

Construction of the 10,000-square-foot plant and equipment is estimated to cost $2.5 million, said Bell.

The company has been brewing and bottling specialty beers at it’s downstate plant in the Kalamazoo area since 1985. Several bars, restaurants, and stores in the Upper Peninsula sell Bell’s ales on draft or in bottles.

Bell said, after looking at other locations in the region, he choose to expand the business to Escanaba which he describes as “a good community player.”

“The community, so far, has been very welcoming and very supportive in us bringing our business up here. I’m very excited,” commented Bell.

Bell also chose Escanaba because it is a central location for the business to manufacture and distribute its products from the U.P. to neighboring states including Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Bell’s Brewery has already been testing ale recipes to brew and bottle at the new Escanaba manufacturing plant which will be called the “Upper Hand Brewery.”

With the land purchase approved Thursday, the next step for Bell is to submit a building site plan to the Escanaba Planning Commission.

Bell said he hopes to break ground on the construction project by Aug. 1. Plans call for the building to be enclosed before winter and the manufacturing business to be open by the spring of 2014.

“By this time next year, we should have beer flowing,” he said.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,