A new Asheville life science employer has been uncorked after fermenting for more than two years.

White Labs Inc., a world leader in fermentation sciences for the brewing and winemaking industries, has announced the purchase of a 26,000-square-foot building in the popular mountain city, with plans to employ 65 people – a mix of scientists, production and distribution personnel.

The company is one of the two that supplies yeast to the craft brewing industry. So as Asheville continues to ascend as one of America’s leading craft brewing centers, White Labs executives decided they needed an Asheville presence to serve as its Eastern U.S. and European R&D hub.

Founder and CEO Chris White said the Asheville site extends the reach of the company’s existing California and Colorado operations, providing better access to the major population centers east of the Mississippi and across the Atlantic.

It started with NCBiotech’s ‘Science in the Mountains’

The idea for White’s move into Asheville started when Chris White attended a 2012 Science in the Mountains fermentation workshop at Appalachian State University.

Science in the Mountains is a program sponsored by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to highlight life science research and commercialization related to western North Carolina’s unique natural resources.

NCBiotech representatives at the conference suggested to White that he consider establishing an Asheville site for his business. Follow-up communications continued, and area officials hosted a subsequent visit by White to Asheville.

Partners in the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville then took the recruitment lead with numerous site visits, incentive support and other activities to help White understand the benefits of an Asheville facility.

White said the expansion will result in “even quicker shipping turnaround times, lower costs and less overhead.”

‘An innovation center for emerging breweries’

“Asheville is the first step of our global expansion plan that is strategically being rolled out in waves over the next few years. Like San Diego and Boulder, Asheville serves as an innovation center for emerging breweries and we couldn’t be more excited to join the Asheville brewing community. Forty percent of our current customers are on the east coast. Being local will enable us to best serve them and lower our corporate carbon footprint.”

White said the new Asheville site will include space for distribution, a tasting room, education, production and analytical lab services.

Blog deems Asheville ‘the most exciting place for craft beer’
t all fits with the region’s increasing visibility on the beverage front. The national wine and beverage blog Vinepair just deemed North Carolina “the most exciting place for craft beer.”

“While Denver, Portland and other massive craft meccas may still have a hold on the mainstream craft movement, if you’re looking for the next great beers that hop heads will ultimately drool for, chances are you’ll find them in the Tar Heel State,” says the popular blog.

It includes a tip of the glass to sites around the state. “But if North Carolina were to truly have a craft capital, it would be Asheville,” it adds.

(C) NC Biotechnology Center

Note: Veteran journalist Jim Shamp is director of public relations for the N.C. Biotechnology Center.