SALISBURY — A few months after moving to a 30,000-square-foot facility in Salisbury, Evolution Brewing Company got a visit from Gov. Martin O’Malley.
During the tour, O’Malley outlined what Maryland is doing to encourage job creation and economic growth, a strategy that he said is reliant upon small businesses like Evolution.
“The reason we’re here is because of the entrepreneurial spirit and job creating capacity of the Knorr brothers and people like them,” he said.
Opened by brothers John and Tom Knorr in 2009, Evolution began with only seven employees. Now, more than 50 people work at the brewery and the Knorr family is expecting to hire another 10 by the end of the year.
According to O’Malley, small businesses are at the heart of Maryland’s effort to climb out of the national recession.
“We are on a constant drive to make Maryland an easier state to do business in,” he said.
One thing that goes hand-in-hand with fostering small business, added O’Malley, is the push to buy local whenever possible.
“People are becoming a lot more aware and a lot more demanding for locally produced products … The buy local movement is something that’s really taking off in our country,” he said.
By producing beers locally and making them available to the community through bottling and a public house, O’Malley pointed out that Evolution and those that buy their products are keeping money circulating on the Eastern Shore. Evolution is then able to pay that favor back by drawing resources from the surrounding community as well.
“It’s an economy that regenerates, that recycles as part of its natural business,” O’Malley said.
The governor specifically lauded the way that the Evolution building in Salisbury takes advantage of a previously underused space. It was formerly the home to the Reddy ice facility.
“They had the great foresight to come to this former icehouse,” said O’Malley.
Evolution is just one of a number of businesses the Knorr brothers own in Maryland. They have several restaurants in the state, with about 350 total employees.
“We’ve been in Maryland since ’96 with our first restaurant,” said John Knorr.
When Evolution re-located to Salisbury from Delmar, Del. earlier this year, John Knorr said that the state has “been great at welcoming us back.”
Besides O’Malley, the brewery tour was well attended by public figures from Salisbury and Wicomico County at large as well as additional state officials.
State Senator Jim Mathias (D-38B), asserted that Evolution moving to Maryland is one sign among many that the business climate in the state is steadily becoming more appealing.
“This is just another successful display of our commitment to business,” he told O’Malley.
Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt emphasized the impact that a strong relationship between the private business sector and all levels of government can have.
“I’d like to just raise a glass to partnership,” he toasted.
Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton spoke briefly about how the city is making progress not only with jobs, but with reducing crime as well. After O’Malley revealed that violent crime in the city is down 37 percent in 2 1/2 years, Ireton added that Salisbury’s Safe Streets program has just been awarded an additional $298,000 in state funding to continue to foster programs aimed at repressing crime.
“It’s about continuing to drive the violent crime rate down,” said Ireton.