Affordability, access to major Midwest cities and an abundant workforce were too much for a startup beverage manufacturer to pass up in locating a plant in Indiana. California-based Common Collabs broke ground last week on a $22 million beverage manufacturing and packaging facility in Starke County. It intends to create up to 80 jobs over the next few years.

“Absolutely you can get a better value in Indiana, the affordability, the cost of living, the cost of doing business really is a draw,” said Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President Brant Curtis.

The company made its start with cold brew coffee but it’s expanding operations. Curtis says Common Collabs currently leases a 22,000-square-foot plant in the Los Angeles area, but it’s cost prohibitive to expand in California, prompting the beverage company to seek other locations.

“We worked with a location-experts, we went out and bid our projects to multiple states. And Indiana was very aggressive in wanting us there and it was mutual,” said Curtis. “It was mentioned that Indiana is the place for entrepreneurship and, we see that with the way we’ve been welcomed with open arms.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Common Collabs up to $800,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new positions.

The city of Knox says it will consider additional incentives at the request of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation.

The company already has a foothold in the county. It purchased a contract brewing and co-packing company, Bottle Neck Solutions, in the neighboring town of North Judson.

Common Collabs hopes to be operational by June in its new 60,000-square-foot facility but they’re building the plant with hopes to expand to 150,000 square feet.

“Our expertise is in the extraction of coffee and tea. That’s how we got started. However, that quickly expanded into the packaging, canning and bottling of pretty much any and all beverages,” said Curtis.

Curtis says an entrepreneur may have an idea for a beverage company but doesn’t have the capital to invest.  They’ll hire a company, like Common Collabs, to manufacture, package and distribute the product.

“Any sparkling waters, functional waters, craft soda, energy drinks, we have the ability to manufacture those in a facility as well,” said Curtis. “There are exceptions, but for the most part, if you can put it in a bottle or can make it for you.”

The company was co-founded by third and fourth generation family members of Wilbur Curtis, who in 1941, started the Wilbur Curtis Co., which manufactures commercial coffee equipment. The nearly 80-year-old company was purchased by a French conglomerate in early 2019.

For Common Collabs, Curtis says it’s not just about the economic benefits of the new company to the city of 3,700 people but becoming part of the community.

“We’re very focused on having an impact on the places that we go. Business for us is not just about bottom line. It’s not about how much money you can make. It’s about how much impact we can have on the local community,” said Curtis.

Curtis explains to Inside Indiana Business some of the reasoning behind selecting Starke County.

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