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Beer gear maker seeks county location

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer A 24,000-square-foot fabrication and manufacturing facility located at B-50 Road just off Highway 50 has sat vacant since 2011. It's now being eyed as the home for a relocating Ridgway business that makes craft beer brewing equipmen

Delta County is in line to land a new business that could bring the kind of economic development local officials have hoped for.

Forgeworks found a dream-come-true location for its business expansion as a company principal driving from Ridgway to Grand Junction noticed a vacant building sitting amid 300 acres of row crops on B-50 Road.

"I just saw the building driving from Ridgway to Grand Junction," Forgeworks general manager Arlan Collatz told the Delta County Planning Commission on Aug. 24. Following that road trip to Grand Junction, the wheels of governmental approvals started turning.

Collatz and company owner Tom Bennett appeared before the planning commission last week seeking approval of a specific development application that will allow them to move Forgeworks here.

Forgeworks is currently operating in Ridgway where it makes stainless steel tanks and other equipment for use in the craft brewing industry. The company is housed in a small facility at Ridgway and does not have room to expand operations and employment. The much larger, 24,000-square-foot building on B-50 Road will allow them room they need to expand.

Collatz told county planners that in the new facility they will build stainless steel tanks, grain mills, other components for brewers, and ancillary equipment.

In addition to the brewing equipment, the company plans to manufacture architectural metal components such as custom hinges and fireplace doors. There are also plans for a small on-site brewing operation for testing and developing equipment; small batch retail beer sales; and seminars for craft brewers. Company owner Bennett described himself as a blacksmith and an artist.

The proposed operation will be housed in four interconnected structures. According to the company's plans, those facilities will consist of an office bay, a large bay, a tall bay and a paint bay. Collatz said all the facilities will be under the roof of the B-50 Road building.

The company's phased development for operations calls for Phase I this year. The tall bay will see "establishment of eight welding and fabrication work stations." Plans are to use the area as a stainless steel welding and fabrication shop for making craft beer brewing equipment. The company's "kettle shop" will be located in the tall bay. According to the specific development application, the tall bay will employ 10 people.

Phase 2 is scheduled for next year. Plans include setting up an architectural shop in the large bay for manufacture of custom architectural components. It will house a carbon steel welding and fabrication shop for manufacturing architectural metal components. The large bay will employ 10 people, according to plans.

Phase 3, also scheduled for next year, would establish a break room and a pilot brewery in the office bay.

"The purpose of the pilot brewery," according to the specific development application, "will be to test brewing equipment, hold brewing seminars, and to hold tasting events and small volume retail sales of the beer. The office bay will employ three people." An associated equipment showroom and brewing classroom are also proposed.

The B-50 Road building became the home of drill rig fabricator Watson-Hopper in 2005, according to planners. According to comments made at the Aug. 24 planning commission meeting, Watson-Hopper vacated the structure in 2011. It then operated for a time at another location in the county.

The building sits on a three-acre site surrounded by 363.18 acres of irrigated row crop production.

The county planning commission recommended that the county commissioners approve Forgeworks' specific development application. The application will be considered by the BoCC at an upcoming meeting.

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