RECENT WORK: Fort George Brewery & Public House: Brewing Up Family Wage Jobs

I am drinking a beer as I write this. Some storytellers have been known to drink to fuel their creativity. Not me. I am drinking a beer because I care about jobs in rural Oregon.

My consumption of this ale from Fort George Brewery is sustaining 60 living wage jobs in Astoria, Oregon. Fifty jobs in Astoria has the community impact of 750 jobs in Portland. It is also a harbinger of Astoria’s rebirth. In the 1940s, there were over 30 canneries along the Columbia River, and the timber mills were booming. But in 1980, Bumblebee Seafood closed its last cannery, and Astoria Plywood Mill, the city’s largest employer, shut down in 1989. Today, Fort George is “canning” again, thanks to several loans from Craft3, a community development financial institution.

Six years ago, Fort George Brewery was an idea in Chris Nemlowill’s head.Today, Fort George is a booming business that fills almost two city blocks. He and his partner, Jack Harris, made great beer from the start. And it got consumed, quickly. But you know what’s really weird about success? You can sell out all of the beer you make, but if you don’t own a building, or have some other form of equity, you can’t get a loan from a traditional bank. And if you can’t get a loan, you can’t grow. And if you can’t grow, you’re stuck behind the counter, you and your partner, wearing all the hats, and Astoria remains the place that everybody remembers fondly and where no one can find a living wage job.

Today, thanks to Craft3, a community development financial institution (CDFI) here in the Pacific Northwest, these are the good ole’ days. Chris and Jack sell their beer in cans because, well, they want to maintain the canning tradition. They’re filling a lot of cans nowadays.

Watch the Video >>

Who is Craft3 and why did they decide to produce six videos? Read on!