In the ever-growing competition among states and localities to attract new jobs and investments, economic developers often follow fads to appear to be on the cutting edge. One week it’s renewable energy. The next week, the hot emerging economic engine is nanotechnology. Yet many governments are now finding that rather than following the pack, they should instead focus on helping to facilitate the growth of the food and beverage sector. Food and beverage companies provide economic stability, good wages and instant credibility (the main players have global name recognition), so economic developers are eager to roll out the red carpet and welcome these companies to their communities.

Food and beverage companies looking to expand are now finding custom-tailored incentive packages designed to help them quickly achieve their business goals related to developing new facilities. Instead of relying merely on tax credits, communities are now supporting companies’ growth by putting money into roads, water and sewer infrastructure, worker training and cash grants.

Recently announced incentive packages for food and beverage companies have included incentives (such as free land), cash grants to cover infrastructure costs, worker training reimbursements and utility upgrades amounting to tens of millions of dollars. These projects generally employ 100–200 people and represent a capital investment of around $150 million to $250 million.

Nearly as important, local governments are fostering the development of industrial sites that are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the industry. Instead of merely clustering all industry types together, these governments recognize that a strong utility and transportation infrastructure, land located away from residential areas or other industrial uses (to avoid nuisance issues,) and access to a highly skilled workforce are essential.

Yet despite the hospitality and genuine desire by governments to be true partners in the growth of the industry, food and beverage companies are often confronted with a myriad of complex tax, land use and environmental issues that can complicate the site selection process.