Be There When Lightning Strikes

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MossColumn: Win is a win win win win win

Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Messer and Mayor Barbara Volk presided over a joint meeting to adpt the Wingate agreement. Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Messer and Mayor Barbara Volk presided over a joint meeting to adpt the Wingate agreement.

Toward the end of a tour of the new Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a photographer had a question for brewery manager Brian Grossman.

 

 


"Hey Brian," he shouted. "Are you going to have a monorail?"
The crack drew chuckles from the gaggle of 16 reporters and photographers who had spent the last hour in wide-eyed wonder at the state-of-the-art plant that another Sierra Nevada executive has described as "a showcase brewery for the world."
Sierra Nevada officials say they have no way of predicting how many local and out-of-town guests they'll serve in their tasting room, pub, restaurant, beer camp and indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces. I posit some idea of the potential by simple math. The company has designed the 9,000-square-foot wood-and-stone restaurant and pub to serve 1,400 plates a day. Multiplied by 365 days — yep, it'll be open every day — that's 511,000 customers. So even if the count is half that, we could see a quarter-million thirsty visitors a year streaming into Mills River.

 

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Four days later, toward the end of a celebratory joint meeting of the Hendersonville City Council and the Board of Commissioners, County Manager Steve Wyatt summed up the cooperative effort that led to the announcement of a new health sciences education building on the Pardee Hospital campus.
"This is a game changer," he said of the five-party agreement signed by city, county, Wingate University, Blue Ridge Community College and Pardee. "This will not only impact Henderson County, the city of Hendersonville for years to come but all of Western North Carolina and the economy of this part of the state."
It was a big cheer for a big victory, one that had as much significance politically as economically. If the leaders of Hendersonville and Henderson County, BRCC, Wingate and Pardee can pull this off, what else might they do? If, as in this case they don't care who gets the credit, the sky's the limit.

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Book-ended by the Sierra Nevada tour on Monday and the Wingate announcement on Friday, it was a darn good week.
On one end of the county, Brian Grossman, the son of Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, led the first media tour of the $107 million brewery project — although $107 million is an old and more than likely low projection of the family-owned company's total investment. When it reaches cruising speed of 350,000 barrels a year and opens up its restaurant, pub, tasting room, beer camp, jazz bar etc. etc. etc., Sierra Nevada will employ 100 people fulltime making beer and 150 part-time in hospitality jobs — bartenders, servers, tour guides, gift shop cashiers, beer Cicerones (it's a word, I looked it up; a Cicerone is the sommelier of a cold one).
Back in the county seat, a crowd of government, business, education and health care leaders gathered to put the official stamp of approval on a five-party agreement that had been carefully crafted and delicately tweaked in secret over the past five months.
Credit for the deal goes to Wyatt, who proposed the BRCC-Wingate marriage, and Hendersonville City Manager John Connet, who bagged the city's biggest economic development trophy in many years. By June the council will write a check for $650,000 for the one-acre lot that will become the site of the new 60,000-square-foot health sciences building and then spend more to clear the lot. Although the city will remain the owner, it then hands off the property to Henderson County, which will borrow money and construct the building. The Board of Commissioners has committed to a $16.2 million facility that by the terms of the joint agreement must be ready for occupancy by the New Year's Day of 2016.
Code-named "Project Touchdown" —a wink toward Wingate president Jerry McGee's long part-time career as a college football referee — the pentagonal pact resulted in another rare sight — mutual praise by the political class.
"You don't see that many turf people working together as well as this has come through," said Commissioner Michael Edney. "People put their egos at the door and made it happen. ... It's home run. Not only touchdown but a home run."

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It might have been a half-court heave at the buzzer, a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 at Augusta National and a fifth set tie-breaker at Wimbledon, too. In the end it was an example, as Pardee CEO Jay Kirby likes to say, of how in times of a precarious economy, unpredictable demands from Raleigh and Washington and shrinking government resources, leaders would do well to follow the advice they heard in kindergarten: When you cross the street, hold hands.
Just as they did in 2011 during the courtship of Sierra Nevada, the county's leaders in this journey held hands, stayed united and got the job done. Although we don't know everything about the Wingate venture, the possibilities are promising. Up to 500 community college and university students a day will take classes in the new education building to become nurses, pharmacists, P.A.s and physical therapists.
We know, as Board of Commissioners chairman Charlie Messer observed, that someone has to build them an apartment or rent them a house, feed them a burger, service their cars and maybe sell them a beer wrapped in a label that reads "Purest Ingredients" "Finest Quality" and "Mills River."
We now have an idea, whipping back over to Mills River, of the new brewery's potential to attract visitors from near and far and the long-term gain that brings, aside from the good paying jobs, environmental stewardship and corporate citizenship.
When we say politics is the art of the possible, we often mean that politics forces us to settle for less than the best outcome. That is not the case on the French Broad River in Mills River and at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Oak Street in Hendersonville.
It's April so my choice among the sports clichés is obvious.
Last week was a grand slam.