COLUMBIA — When the brewers of White Claw hard seltzer landed at the Columbia airport in August, they boarded a bus and were handed laptops. Richland County’s largest and fastest-paced sales pitch in recent history was about to begin.
As they rode to the site in Lower Richland they were considering as home for their third and largest U.S. production facility, details of every local feature popped up on an interactive map, from technical information on the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant to entertainment amenities like Williams-Brice Stadium and Congaree National Park.
Water and power being the brewer’s greatest concern, utility officials were all on site to answer any questions. With that, Richland County would land its second-largest development deal ever, bringing $400 million in investments and 300 new jobs to the area.
When the county entered the hunt for the company’s business, Chicago-based Mark Anthony Brewing was looking at sites in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, as well South Carolina, said Jeff Ruble, Richland County’s economic development director. And it wouldn’t immediately work out.
After the site visit, Ruble got a call saying they had settled on another site and would announce a deal in the next 24 hours.
“I told my team, ‘Guys, I’m sorry. We worked hard on this but they’re going to Florida,’” Ruble said.
Then that deal unraveled.
“Someone pumped the brakes and said we need to look a little harder at this,” Ruble said.