Buoy Beer Co. and The Scoular Co. are offering to invest millions and create higher-paying jobs in exchange for tax breaks on new property.

The Clatsop Enterprise Zone offers companies tax breaks on new investments in return for improving property and creating new jobs that pay at least 130% of the average county wage. The companies still pay taxes on existing property.

Buoy Beer raises the roof

Buoy Beer Co. has begun jacking up the roof of the former Video Horizons to house new brewing equipment, part of an $8 million waterfront expansion.

Fort George Brewery was approved for an estimated $617,000 in tax relief over 15 years. The company promised to invest at least $12.5 million to convert the former Astoria Warehousing campus in Uniontown into a new brewery and create at least 35 jobs.

Buoy and Scoular pitched their projects to local leaders Wednesday.Clatsop County, Astoria, Warrenton and the Port of Astoria need to approve additions to the enterprise zone.

River Barrel Brewing, the parent company behind Buoy Beer and Pilot House Distilling, has begun an $8 million expansion on the waterfront expected to finish by the end of the year.

Buoy Beer is raising the roof of the former Video Horizons on Astor Street to fit new brewing equipment that will double capacity. Pilot House will remodel a nearby warehouse into a larger headquarters, including a multistory, 5,000-liter still five times bigger than what the distillery uses now.

Being part of the enterprise zone would save Bouy Beer and Pilot House an estimated $734,800 in property taxes over five years. The expansion is expected to create 15 to 20 new jobs in brewing, selling, packaging and warehousing beer and spirits, along with added administration.

The companies have agreements with the state Employment Department to focus first on local hires. Buoy Beer and Fort George are partnering with Clatsop Community College on a brewing program that could link with higher-level programs at Oregon State University.

Dave Kroening, the president and general manager of Buoy Beer, said the company is still at the equivalent of 65 full-time employees after layoffs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the layoffs have been on the retail side, whereas the expansion and new positions will focus on wholesale throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“In general, about 95% of everything we make on site goes outside the county for sales,” Kroening said.

Scoular would save $641,000 on property taxes over five years for a new plant turning fish scraps from Bornstein Seafoods and Da Yang Seafood into fishmeal. The plant at the Port of Astoria’s Airport Industrial Park in Warrenton is expected to cost $10 million, create around 10 jobs and be operational this spring.

“That is a plant manager, a quality manager, a finance manager, multiple skilled operators,” said Tom Wortmann, director of corporate development and strategy at Scoular. “ … We’re trying to run a lean facility here, so a skilled operator is someone that knows how to run the equipment, and if it breaks, knows how to fix the equipment. I think you’ll see a very skilled workforce we’re looking to employ here.”

Scoular, an employee-owned agricultural trader based in Nebraska, is one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S., with $4.5 billion in annual revenue. The fish meal products made in Warrenton will go around the U.S. and to Asia, Wortmann said, and help bolster the company’s presence in pet food and aquaculture.

Kevin Leahy, the executive director of Clatsop Economic Development Resources and manager of the enterprise zone, said the enterprise zone provides a tool to help local companies expand.

“We always talk about, ‘How can we be competitive?’” Leahy said. “And we know that most of our growth in Clatsop County comes from within. It’s business expansion and business retention. So it’s so exciting to have a local, homegrown business in Buoy Beer doing this major expansion, and having The Scoular Co. as a new member of our economic family.”

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