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Terrapin Almost Left Athens for South Carolina

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

Terrapin Beer Co. used lucrative offers from other states to move its Athens brewery to extract more than $1 million in taxpayer incentive offers from the Athens-Clarke County government, according to documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald.

In a letter to state Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville), Terrapin co-founder John Cochran wrote that he did “due diligence” in seeking a new location during negotiations with the company’s landlord. South Carolina offered “upwards of $10 million” toward a new $18–20 million facility. Another state offered incentives of “several million dollars” on a $37 million facility that would create 100 jobs.

In response, Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Director Ryan Moore offered to spend $1.7 million to buy six acres adjacent to Terrapin’s Newton Bridge Road brewery and lease the land back to Terrapin for $50,000 per year—a $225,000 savings for the company. 

Cochran and Mayor Nancy Denson have signed a tentative agreement. And ACC’s fiscal 2016 budget, approved earlier this month, includes $350,000 for an unnamed economic development project that now appears to be Terrapin. 

In exchange for ACC incentives, Terrapin has tentatively agreed to invest $12 million and create at least 25 jobs averaging at least a $30,000 salary over the next six years. 

Terrapin is planning to expand production from 47,000 barrels last year to 64,000 this year and 100,000 by 2018, according to one of Cochran’s emails.