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$2 million in grants could bolster state’s successful liquor corporations | TribLIVE.com
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$2 million in grants could bolster state’s successful liquor corporations

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Bloomberg News
Bottles of lager move through the assembly line at the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville, Pa. (Bloomberg News)

You probably never heard of the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewing company.

The fledgling Pottsville operation has been around only since 1829 and has struggled mightily to establish itself in its nearly two centuries of existence. In the trade organization Brewers Association’s rankings of the nation’s top craft brewers in the past two years, Yuengling both times has finished a bitterly disappointing first.

The situation might seem bleak for the brewery, which in 2014 sold only 11 million cases of beer and took in $248 million, according to the alcohol-focused website Vinepair. But thanks to an expanding Pennsylvania bureaucracy, help soon could be on the way.

The state Legislature just created an entity called the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverages Industry Promotion Board. Those who prefer a nice Chardonnay to a cold lager needn’t be jealous. Lawmakers also established a Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Program Board.

The boards are the state’s response to a pressing problem. People aren’t drinking enough Pennsylvania-produced beer (see Yuengling’s pathetic sales figures above) or wine. So the two panels will receive $1 million apiece in public money annually to promote consumption of alcoholic beverages originating in the Keystone State.

Don’t assume the grants will go only to politically connected companies. A safeguard exists to guard against the cronyism that plagues other state boards and commissions.

The new panels will be appointed by folks who never would load them with friends, trusted colleagues or recently paroled cousins fond of drinking in brew pubs. The governor and state House and Senate leaders will make the appointments.

The legislation also contains strict limitations on who gets the money. The grants being doled out are reserved strictly for applicants. If you don’t apply, you won’t see a dime.

Curiously, nothing in the law restricts companies that don’t need the money from applying for a grant. Yuengling is eligible to receive public money to bolster its wildly successful business.

If you believe such a scenario is implausible, consider what happened with Comcast a few years ago.

The world’s largest cable TV operator and Internet service provider wanted to build a $1.2 billion skyscraper in Philadelphia, but the multibillion-dollar company was having trouble coming up with the capital to finance it. Thankfully, the state had grant programs in place to assist cable TV conglomerates that also own TV networks and film studios. Just $30 million in public money later, ground was broken on the Comcast building.

The General Assembly just created two unnecessary, politically connected boards to dispense $2 million in public money annually to Pennsylvania beer and wine producers. The grants could go to businesses already doing quite well without them.

Kind of makes you want to open one of those 11 million cases of Yuengling, doesn’t it?

Eric Heyl is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].

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