With roots that run deep and stretch through eastern Iowa, 7G Distributing LLC broke ground on a new beer distribution facility Friday for its Davenport operations.
High winds swept the construction site as 7G representatives and invited leaders held a ceremonial ground-breaking with one of 7G's recognizable red Budweiser delivery trucks as a backdrop.
Mason Lee, operations vice president, told the audience of Davenport employees, guests and politicians that if they drink Budweiser, Corona and many craft beers "it comes through our warehouse."
The new 110,000-square-foot office and warehouse will replace the existing operation nearby on Northwest Boulevard. The 14.6-acre development will house a warehouse and connected two-story office building. The project, which will be a $12 million to $14 million investment, is the latest project for Eastern Iowa Industrial Center off Interstate 80, where Heinz Kraft and Sterilite are building new facilities.
"It will handle 2 million cases of beer a year,'' said Lee, a third generation in the family-owned distributor, headquartered in Cedar Rapids. He said the 65 Davenport employees, who include sales and marketing, warehouse and delivery staff, will now have a facility 2.5 times the size of the current warehouse. "We're very, very cramped there. Beer is on top of beer and people are on top of people."
Ron Kirchhoff, who owns 7G with co-partner Joe Lee, said the company is shy of $100 million in sales annually. But without any sizeable population growth, sales are expected to be stable.
Most of 7G's growth has been in the increased variety of beers it now distributes, including new craft beers. In the Quad-Cities, 7G distributes for Great River, Bent River and Green Tree breweries.
The Davenport center serves 600 customers in Scott, Cedar and Muscatine counties and will add Clinton County to its territory. With its other operations in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, 7G sells and delivers Anheuser Busch, Corona and regional and Iowa craft beers across a total of 14 eastern Iowa counties. It has a fleet of 35 trucks and a total of 212 employees.
The building's architect is HDA Architects of St. Louis, which specializes in beverage distribution facilities. The general contractor is Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson, which will employ local contractors on the construction site.
Thanking Bill Wallace, Vanguard's last owner, who was in the audience on Friday, Kirchhoff recalled Wallace's concern that 7G "maintain a presence in this community," including with his employees. "Bill, hats off to you. We're continuing on the legacy you've done so well down here," he said.