Pearl Street Brewery expands with help of La Crosse County loan

One local brewery is ramping up production thanks to a loan from La Crosse County.

Pearl Street Brewery just celebrated its 17th anniversary and is already looking to celebrate its 18th in a much bigger fashion. The brewery is taking advantage of a county loan that is funded through the federal Economic Development Administration.

One of the co-owners says it’s not only good for business, but for the community as well.

The thirst for craft beer has been growing throughout the United States, including right here in La Crosse

“Our growth has been fairly exponential, especially in the last two years,” said Tami Plourde, director of sales and co-owner of Pearl Street Brewery.

Pearl Street Brewery started in 1999 and has been growing ever since.

“In 2014, we sat down and wrote a five-year business plan and we are actually all the way through it already,” said Plourde.

So what do you do when your product is in high demand? Plourde said make another plan.

“We are in the process of sitting down and re-evaluating our expansion plan and making an expansion plan for the future,” said Plourde.

The company recently received a loan from its bank allowing it to buy more equipment.

“With the four new tanks we recently purchased, that is going to give us a 50 percent increase in production,” said Plourde.

However, the bank loan falls a little flat. Along with more beer and more production, the company needs to hire more employees as well.

“The bank will fund capital loans for equipment and things they can take back or secure their risks. But being able to support this growth, we needed the people and in order to get those people, we needed to hire deeper into secure salaries,” said Plourde.

That’s when Pearl Street Brewery contacted La Crosse County’s Economic Development Fund Board for help.

“What we do is get requests for funding for companies that are starting up or trying to expand and we review their requests, check out their references and determine if we can loan them money or not,” said David Holtze, a La Crosse County supervisor who is on the Economic Development Fund Board.

The loan given through the county is meant to fill in gaps that bank loans aren’t able to fill.

“Sometimes small businesses don’t have a real huge background as far as their ability to pay back so banks tend to be less likely to loan money to them,” said Holtze.

“The county is taking a little risk and it’s been a good deal so far. We have been able to hire the people they wanted us to hire and I think we are going to exceed the goals they set for us and so it’s been good thing,” said Plourde.

There are currently 15 employees at Pearl Street Brewery. Most are full-time, but they are on track to be at about 30 employees in the next couple of years.

The county has committed to give the brewery $150,000 and it will have eight years to pay back the loan. Pearl Street Brewery is paying interest on the loan, so in the end, the money the county makes on it will be given to another local company looking to expand.