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Malt House making a comeback?

DAYTON–The Port of Columbia Board of Commissioners heard from the owner Mainstem Malt before considering the authorization of a resolution to move forward with an application for funding for a feasibility study from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) for craft malting industry clusters. Updates were given for the broadband project and there was much discussion about the Columbia Walla Walla Rail during the workshop.

Cedar Rain Spirits now occupies the entire Building No.2 at Blue Mountain Station (BMS), which is now at full occupancy. Phil Neuman owner of Mainstem Malt approached the Port about the feasibility of building a craft malt house and developing a related grain cluster industry at Blue Mountain Station. Neuman spoke about his growing business which took off in 2016. He has been using various regional facilities of established makers in the industry to craft his product. By having his own facility for production, it would help in gaining capital to further expand the business. A feasibility study will determine if this venture would be good for community to obtain resources for a facility for a grain and malt industry cluster.

Port Executive Manager Jennie Dickinson told the Commission that she consulted with CERB, and they thought it would be an appropriate fit for BMS and the community. Commissioner Genie Crowe asked what a business cluster is. Dickinson explained that a cluster is when a group of neighboring businesses share local resources to manufacture products and promote one another in different capacities whether it be buying and selling or marketing. This allows for increased productivity, innovation, and viability. She added that a cluster already exists at the Port and pointed out that Jacob Weinhard had a malt house in Dayton in the 1880s and how relevant to our community it would be to bring one back.

An extension was granted for the CERB application for a $50,000 grant for the study which would require $12,500 matching funds if it is be awarded next month. She proposed Neuman put forward $6,500 of the match and the Port contribute the remainder. Neuman would pay to construct a 20,000 sq ft building with outside grain storage and equipment such as upright rotating cylinders and drums for the processing. He would employ around six employees and potentially more in the future. If approved by CERB, they would provide funding for the project and to the Port to extend the utilities to the new building. Other federal funding would be coming available in June. Commissioner Johnny Watts said that he would like additional information about the business and asked to meet directly with the business owner. All commissioners approved the resolution to authorize the application to CERB.