This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Oconee Brewing Company has a retail production facility and a tasting room that is open to the public.
t’s no secret that breweries are becoming a staple for several downtowns across the state. This holds true for the city of Greensboro, which is home to Oconee Brewing Company (OBC). Complete with a retail production facility and a tasting room for public tours, OBC was developed by a known father-and-son duo, Nathan and John McGarity of John McGarity Realty. The owner and master brewer of OBC is Taylor Lamm. Nathan McGarity, who shares with his father the belief in improving a community through quality designs, unique commerce and partnerships with local governments and investors, sat down with Georgia’s Cities
to tell more about downtown development trends and tips to better welcome business to cities.
GC: Where did you find your passion for development?
Nathan and John McGarity of John McGarity Realty have developed several projects including the Oconee Brewing Company in Greensboro. Oconee Brewing Company has a retail production facility and a tasti
NM: Any developer spirit in me has been grafted from my dad’s vision and passions. He’s had a successful career in real estate and he specializes in residential and commercial rezoning projects. I think of him sometimes as a dream caster. He seems to subtly lay out pieces that somehow come together to make something. Dad would describe himself as taking junk properties and making something good out of it. That pretty much fits his personality and the way we look at it every day—you take what you have and make something good out of it.
GC: What is it about downtowns that has inspired you to focus on development here specifically?
NM: I like helping pull together pieces to preserve a memory of something that is almost gone, and I like the idea that I may be setting into motion the continuation of that concept. One hundred years after the current restoration, maybe the next time there’s another need for saving history, someone will look up old newspaper stories about our project and they’ll feel confident that they can save the building again.
GC: What development trends or elements have you seen that contribute to a thriving downtown?
NM: I believe that city-lead development staging has contributed to a lot of success across the state. Where you see communities participating in state initiatives, like zones, incentives and loan programs, you can bet that the municipality is organized and is also working on infrastructure improvements, beatification and placemaking. I think that sophisticated retailers can sense when a community has an organized vision and are more excited to band-wagon on its success.
GC: How important (if at all) is partnership with local government and entities as a developer?
NM: I think that the partnership is very important. Sharing your ideas in a conversation is a good thing to do before you’ve even located a building, land or solidified your plans. If you’re passionate about a project, finding your path through the forward movement of community vision is a good thing.
GC: What can cities do to attract and build relationships with downtown developers?
NM: I think the reality is that unless someone is moving to your community to open a retail shop, your best developer is most likely coming from within. It’s
fun to think of yourself as one of the little rascals. If the vision is sound you’re probably going to get it across the line with fewer resources than you would have liked, and the way you get there won’t be the way you scripted it. I think that relationships grow from clear and positive communication, paperwork reduction and speedy delivery through administrative processes.
GC: What’s next for you and your team?
NM: Right now, we’re working on Oconee Brewing’s Project Hummingbird, this is a brewery co-op. Member brewers can set up a small commercial test-pilot brewhouse and fermenters to suit their market demand. After producing small pilot batches, they dial their recipes in on the equipment at Oconee Brewing. The wort [infusion of ground malt or other grain before fermentation] is delivered back using the original recipe and production notes. The brewer ferments and retails their beer at their facility. The fun in this is that smaller communities can now have a taproom brewery because the capital needed to start a brewery is now more manageable. We are now at the stage of connecting cities with brewers and equity players. And this is exactly what we love—bringing together people, places, ideas and resources.