Alabama’s independent beer distributors are convening with their counterparts from every state in the nation this week at a national conference to deliver a compelling message to lawmakers. As local companies, we want members of Congress to know why their support for independent, Main Street businesses and our workers is essential.
Today, major metropolitan areas are enjoying a bustling economy, but as many Alabamians recognize, the benefits have failed to reach deeply into some rural and underserved neighborhoods. Independent beer distributors stand in contrast to this trend, a model for what’s possible for America’s main streets if leaders enact the right policy environment.
The Yellowhammer State’s 39 beer distributors employ nearly 2,500 hardworking men and women in well-compensated jobs. We pay more $149 million each year in wages and salaries and deliver nearly $1 billion in total economic impact. Not only do we contribute almost $126 million annually in taxes, but we also help collect county and state beer levies, which fund education and many other indispensable state services.
Notably, much of our activity takes place in smaller towns across the state. And by serving as the independent link between brewers and retailers, beer distributors prevent monopolies and encourage innovation. This has helped fuel the rise of local craft breweries and allows each brewery to compete in the marketplace on a level playing field.
Just a decade ago, grassroots advocates pushed to rollback Alabama’s brewing restrictions. They helped spark a new wave of experimental and heritage-focused beer making. And Alabama’s independent beer distributors have been there every step of the way, leveraging our marketing expertise, infrastructure and relationships with licensed retailers to ensure these local breweries’ innovative products get their fair share of shelf and tap space.
Due to the combined efforts of producers and wholesalers, Birmingham rapidly became one of the nation’s fastest-growing craft beer markets. Places like Avondale have been revitalized by breweries, and Mobile is seeing upstarts turn abandoned buildings into energetic neighborhoods, attracting restaurants and other entertainment venues to grow alongside them.
The contributions of Alabama’s beer distributors do not end with our economic impacts, however. We also give back with generous contributions to charities, events and development efforts designed to ensure a rising tide floats all Alabama businesses and families to new heights.
These are the details we’re sharing with legislators this week in Washington, D.C., in addition to using what we learn in our nation’s capital to generate greater benefits for our neighbors back home. For example, updates on regulatory compliance will ensure we continue to deliver a safe, legal product, so consumers never have to worry about the dangerous, tainted beers that are all too common in other countries like Mexico and India.
Every Alabama beer distributor is proud to play a part in a sector that thrives on the original American values of fair competition and family-focused enterprise. We’re especially glad that our passion for the age-old craft of beer empowers us to deliver for Alabama communities, and we hope federal and state policymakers will support us in our constant efforts to do more.
This op-ed by Michael Schilleci, president of Supreme Beverage Company, Inc., a third-generation beer wholesaler in Birmingham, Ala., and NBWA chairman of the board, originally ran on Yellowhammer News on April 8, 2019.