Dave Klaassen

Dave Klaassen

Vernon brewery launches major investment

Sleeman Breweries announced Tuesday that there will be a $4.4 million investment in the Okanagan Spring facility

A brand synonymous with Vernon is expanding its presence.

Officials with Sleeman Breweries announced Tuesday that there will be a $4.4 million investment in the Okanagan Spring facility downtown.

“It’s good to see we’ve grown again,” said brewmaster Stefan Tobler, whose family founded Okanagan Spring 30 years ago.

It’s expected construction will begin in November, and be completed by next April.

The project will include new tanks, increased brewhouse capacity and refrigeration upgrades — bolstering annual capacity by about 20 per cent.

Additional jobs are anticipated in brewing, packaging, maintenance and warehousing.

“We are already starting to interview for some of those positions,” said Dave Klaassen, Sleeman Breweries  vice-president of operations.

There are currently about 140 employees.

The expansion will occur within the existing footprint of the facility, and Tobler admits that physical conditions are tight on the property.

“We still have a little growth room and as we always say, ‘There’s up,” he said.

Driving the expansion is consumer demand for Okanagan Spring products as well as beers that fall under the Sleeman banner.

“It’s high-quality beer and a flavour everyone likes,” said Tobler.

While the exact number of new employees is yet to be determined, City of Vernon officials believe the expansion is significant because it solidifies Okanagan Spring’s role as an economic anchor.

“To see this investment in the community is excellent news. It speaks to the long-term commitment of Sleeman,” said Kevin Poole, the city’s economic development manager.

“These are great jobs to have here. Manufacturing has taken a big hit in the North Okanagan since 2008 and to see one growing, is a big sign of confidence in the area.”

Poole believes the Okanagan Spring expansion will encourage other businesses to move to Vernon.

“It shows investors that this is a a place to look at,” he said.

Taking part in Tuesday’s announcement was Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“The brewery is already a local icon here in Vernon and the expansion will be a great boost to the community,” said Foster.