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From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner

(12/2016) Whatís Brewing in Frederick County?

Frederick County leads the state in the craft beverage industry. Many people know we are home to the largest brewery in Maryland, with Flying Dog, but they often donít realize our list of other "firsts." We are home to the first farm brewery, Milkhouse Brewery south of Libertytown; the first combination winery/brewery, at Linganore Winecellars; the first cidery, Distillery Lane Cidarworks outside of Burkittsville; and the first meadery, at Orchid Cellar, north of Middletown. In addition, several distilleries have opened in the past year. Clearly, great things are brewing in Frederick County!

This emerging market has grown so much in the past two years that other counties want to know what Frederick is doing. Recently two dozen economic development experts from across Maryland toured the county to see whatís brewing here. They visited several breweries before hearing from a panel of experts from the craft beverage industry.

The Tourism Council and the Office of Economic Development work together to promote this industry. They collaborated on an award-winning brochure that features a comprehensive list of wineries, breweries and distilleries located in Frederick County. It is the only brochure in the state that pulls together all of the craft beverage offerings in a single county. The Wineries Breweries Distilleries brochures are so popular, we canít keep them in stock.

To remain a leader, Frederick County needs to continually find ways to improve the landscape for emerging industries. For instance, we launched a new agri-business website, www.HomegrownFrederick.com, which includes a section on the craft beverage industry. Visitors can use an interactive map to search for places making their favorite types of craft drinks. The website was designed in response to outreach from the Countyís agricultural economic development specialist, Katie Albaugh, who surveyed farmers and agri-businesses to see how the county can support growth of their business.

Promoting the emerging market is one piece of the puzzle. There are other steps we are taking to address the industryís needs. Katie meets regularly with the Frederick Area Distillery Guild, the Agriculture Business Council (which includes a representative from a winery), and the Farm Bureau to find innovative ways to help agri-business and agri-tourism succeed.

For instance, wineries, breweries and distilleries frequently hold special events at their facilities. These may be festivals, concerts, or other events where the owner would like to bring in food trucks so their guests can also enjoy some food. Most of the beverage manufacturers donít want to provide food themselves. Securing permits for serving food and hosting events can be a complicated process. Navigating the maze of state and local regulations can be frustrating.

Thatís why I recently announced several initiatives to address the industryís needs and to show that my administration means business.

First, I have formed a Food Truck Work Group to find out where the hiccups are in the process of permitting the trucks. Katie Albaugh will lead the group, which includes staff from the Office of Economic Development, Permitting, and the Health Department. The group will hear from businesses that want to bring in food trucks, as well as from food truck operators. I asked the group to identify concerns and present me with recommended solutions by March 15, 2017. I look forward to hearing the groupís ideas.

Another step we are taking, at the request of the Maryland Wineries Association, is to create a guide to help those who are interested in starting up a craft beverage operation. The idea came from another guide that the Office of Economic Development created earlier this year. This "Road Map for Business" brochure walks a new business owner through the process, from developing a plan to finding the ideal location. The executive director of the Maryland Winery Association, Kevin Atticks, asked us to produce the same type of guide that would be specific to the craft beverage industry. The craft beverage guide is already in the works.

The County also has been asked to consider allowing limited tasting rooms for breweries and wineries, similar to the way we allow limited roadside stands for the sale of produce. Staff has organized a day of on-site meetings with some operations to see what would be involved.

Finally, my administration has created a new Seasonal Outdoor Activity Permit for temporary outdoor activities that attract fewer than 200 people. Previously, if a winery wanted to hold a special event each month, the business would need to apply for 12 separate permits, one for each weekend event, and pay an application fee for each permit. By allowing bundling, one permit can be used for multiple events held over the course of several months. Businesses will be able to use the permit to save time and money.

County agencies continue to work together to make sure this change still protects the public safety and welfare of attendees and respects neighbors. Those agencies include the Sheriffís Office, the Health Department, Planning and Permitting, and the Fire Marshalís Office. Working collaboratively, we can make a difference for the businesses that want to open or expand in Frederick County.

My administration will continue to look for ways to make it easier to start and grow a business in the county. We want to encourage emerging markets like wineries, breweries and distilleries to take root and grow here. With so many great ideas brewing, itís no wonder business is booming in Frederick!

Read other articles from Frederick County Government Officials