Trump cabinet member Linda McMahon visits Appalachian Brewing Co.

Artie Tafoya would love to hire 20 or 30 more people to staff his craft beer and soda business in Cumberland County.

With help from the recent federal tax cuts, the co-owner of Appalachian Brewing Co. believes he will be able to expand his 80-person workforce and boost manufacturing capacity at the company’s facility in Silver Spring Township.

He discussed those plans Tuesday afternoon with Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She toured the 26,000-square-foot Appalachian Brewing facility as part of a midstate trip that also included a stop in Gettysburg to promote assistance programs her agency is able to offer small businesses.

“That’s what I like to hear,” McMahon, a Trump appointee, said of ABC’s growth plans. She has been pushing to see the individual tax cuts, not just the corporate reductions, made permanent to help small-business owners who report profits as personal income.

McMahon also has been touting the importance of the SBA’s loan programs. Private banks are able to offer more favorable loan terms to small businesses using the agency’s programs because they are backed by the federal government.

Harrisburg-based ABC opened the Cumberland County brewpub and production plant in 2014. The company received nearly $1.8 million in SBA loan funds as part of a $4.3 million renovation at the Carlisle Pike site. The Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and Capital Region Economic Development Corp., along with Centric Bank, helped put the financing together.

The chamber and the bank each had representatives at the brewpub to meet McMahon, including Centric’s president and CEO Patti Husic.

McMahon, known for her role in growing the WWE wrestling empire along with her husband, Vince McMahon, walked the ABC facility with Tafoya, learning about its beer and soda production and distribution operations. She also got a taste of the brewery’s Chocolate Avenue Stout.

The facility, Tafoya said, produces about 2,500 cases of soda per week. It also makes about 1,500 cases of beer per week. Most of the company’s beer production takes place in Harrisburg.

Soda is the star of the Cumberland County facility. One of seven ABC properties, it makes all of the company’s soda, which is sold to retailers nationwide. And that side of the business is expanding this year with a fifth soda flavor. 

Tafoya told McMahon that he bought the facility knowing that ABC would have to grow into it.

“I think the tax cuts will help us grow again (this year),” he said. He plans to not only add more people and potentially more equipment to build capacity in Silver Spring Township but also to invest in new brewpub locations.

McMahon, who has been meeting with small-business owners across the country since taking office last year, said she’s heard from a lot of companies that are more confident this year because of the tax cuts. Many are investing in new equipment and facilities, as well as hiring more workers, she said.

“This has created this general optimism for small businesses,” she said. “There was this anticipation of it last year. Now it’s reality. The tax cuts are just making it possible.”

In addition to tax cuts, McMahon said she hears a lot about the volume of regulation on small businesses from all levels of government. Workforce shortages, she said, are another common theme.

The SBA head, who has been to 40 of the 68 SBA districts across the country since last spring, said she is taking that feedback to the president, hoping to influence changes.

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