Two Gadsden businesses win Manufacturer of the Year awards

Gadsden's beer brewery and tire supplier have something in common as of Wednesday.They took home half of this year's Alabama Manufacture of the Year awards.{} The Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Network announced this year's four winners this week.Back Forty Beer Co. won the category for small manufacturers, which is open to companies with fewer than 100 employees.{} Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. won the large manufacturing category."It speaks highly about the climate we have here.{} We're very inviting to industry and to new business," Gadsden Chamber of Commerce president Heather New said."We're all about innovation and new ideas, and I think it says Gadsden is open for business."This is Goodyear's 85th year in Gadsden.{} New said that shows the sustainability that exists in the area.Back Forty brewed its first beer in 2009, and started production at a 27,000 square foot facility in Gadsden in 2012.Owner and founder Jason Wilson said he was thrilled simply to be a finalist."Anytime you get recognized by your peers in the industry, it's a huge honor," Wilson said."We're really proud to be included with some of those names.{} It's a pretty good distinction for us as a small up and coming brewery."Back Forty has 19 full time employees.{} Wilson expects to double that number by the end of 2015.{} The company is about to invest $500,000 in new equipment to double their brewing capacity, and to begin canning at the Gadsden plant.Wilson said they began testing their beer in cans last year, as many outdoor places--golf courses, state parks, and beaches--allow cans but do not allow glass bottles.{} Back Forty contracted with a canning facility in Washington, D.C., to can their product, which the company then shipped back to Gadsden for distribution."Once we got a good indication that this was a good option for us, we were always committed to doing this here in Gadsden," Wilson said.That means more jobs."It takes a lot of employees to make the product that we make, because we don't use adjuncts, and we don't use preservatives and extracts," Wilson said."We don't take shortcuts in the production process, so we are a very labor intensive manufacturing process, and we hire a lot of people to make a relatively small quantity of high quality craft beer," he said."So we'll absolutely be adding a tremendous number to our overall staff over the next year to 18 months."Wilson said Back Forty should begin canning beer at the Gadsden facility in the next two to three months.He expects brewing capacity to increase to 20,000 barrels a month by the end of the year.