The Astoria City Council and Port of Astoria Commission have approved an application by Fort George Brewery to take advantage of a state property tax break on new equipment as it builds out its primary distribution, canning and brewing operations inside the former Astoria Warehousing.

Fort George will likely become the first company to participate in the Clatsop Enterprise Zone offering property tax breaks for certain new investments. It will become one of the first companies in rural Oregon to participate in the state’s long-term rural enterprise zone offering up to 15 years of tax breaks in exchange for at least $12.5 million invested and the creation of 35 jobs.

Chris Nemlowill

Fort George Brewery co-owner Chris Nemlowill stands in the doorway of Astoria Warehousing, where his company plans to locate the majority of its distribution, canning and brewing operations.

Melanie Olson, a regional development officer for Business Oregon, touted Fort George’s project as a rarity.

“You don’t see projects like this in rural areas,” Olson told the Port Commission on Tuesday. “There’s actually been very few across the state, and when we were looking at examples of written agreements to share, there were only a couple, and most of those were big data centers out in Eastern Oregon. So the fact that we have a local, homegrown company that is interested in investing back into the local community, I think this is really cool.”

Fort George purchased the Astoria Warehousing property last year for $8 million and plans to invest at least another $4.5 million in new equipment and a taproom. The company will still pay full property taxes on the land and buildings. But the tax breaks on new equipment are expected to save the company $617,000 over the next 15 years.

Fort George must also create at least 35 jobs of at least 32 hours a week within three years of starting operations at Astoria Warehousing to avoid paying those taxes back. Those employees must earn at least 130% of the county’s average annual wage of around $37,000.

Fort George will also partner with Clatsop Community College on the creation of a brewing program for students hoping to transfer for similar studies at Oregon State University.

“Fort George have shown themselves to be good community members,” City Councilor Tom Brownson said before the application’s approval by the City Council Monday. “So I don’t think we could ask for a better owner.”

The company’s enterprise zone application must still be approved by the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners and the Warrenton City Commission.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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