Wednesday evening, the St. James Community Betterment (SJCB) organization met outdoors on the patio of The Public House and got a glimpse into the future of what their town might look like in the decades to come. To help interested citizens along in this fun, time travel trip was guest speaker Angie Rolufs
Wednesday evening, the St. James Community Betterment (SJCB) organization met outdoors on the patio of The Public House and got a glimpse into the future of what their town might look like in the decades to come. Projecting into the future would not be possible without a discussion of that catch-all term “sustainability”—all those things that must be done to ensure St. James’ businesses not only survive, but thrive.
To help interested citizens along in this fun, time travel trip was guest speaker Angie Rolufs and she came with a curriculum steeped in planning, engineering management, renewable energy and sustainable building credentials. Along with Peter Hoffer, CEO of St. James Winery, Rolufs is a founding member of the non-profit Friendship School Foundation—a foundation focused on advancing sustainable practices in the craft beverage industry.
She talked about the natural resources that surround the community—unique to the region. She and Hoffer spoke of the Italian wine legacy, producing products and providing tourism entertainment within a planned infrastructure and working with the processes of nature to run sustainably and vault the town into a position of responsible business leadership in the Midwest.
That’s heady and exciting stuff, because according to Rolufs, Hoffer, Robert Tessaro, committeeman of SJCB and City Administrator Harold Selby, St. James is positioned to tackle this vision of organic growth that is becoming clearer every day they focus on the opportunities and talent that surround the area.
So what does this bureaucratic-sounding word “sustainability” mean in terms of the St. James Winery?
“The [Friendship School] Foundation champions the sustainability in the craft beverage industry while enhancing the quality of place and preserving the cultural heritage of the St. James community,” said Rolufs. The effort is not solely a self-serving endeavor on the part of St. James Winery according to Rolufs. With a Missouri Value-Added Development grant, the group hired the Kansas City-based architectural and planning firm Burns and McDonnell “to develop a master plan that the winery and brewery could do together to create a demonstration site for renewable energy, energy efficiencies, sustainable building and other ways to share with others,” she said. “The vision is to bring in other craft brewers and family-run wineries. Who better, to set the example for everybody else?”
She notes the concept is simple—create a campus, bring in others and help them learn. By using the campus as a springboard of education for others, the organization thinks this will attract new businesses to the St. James area.
“If you have employees you want to attract to an area—and they’re saying ‘oh, I can’t leave Denver’—but then they see a small town, but an engaged small town and community, and I think that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate,” explained Rolufs. “The master plan set the pathway for us.”
The group met with the St. James City Council last November with Josh Campbell of Missouri Energy Initiative to pass Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).
“What this allows a business to do, is work with a PACE financier to borrow money that is “off-book.” It doesn’t show as a loan against your company,” said Rolufs. “You actually pay it back against your property taxes.”
Rolufs added that whatever the business reason for the loan, it will offset the energy bill by the same amount over 10 years—you’ll have an increased property tax bill, but the energy bill will be reduced.
“That’s an exciting thing when you think about St. James Community Betterment—it’s not just for the winery, it’s out there for anybody in the St. James business area,” she said, as she invited Peter Hoffer to add his comments.
“We believe we live in a very unique place,” said Hoffer, “with Maramec Spring Park and the tourism that comes through here.” “This is a very special area with the Salem Plateau. We have unique weather patterns here—my father saw it in 1970, and he knew the grapes that came out of Rosati had a very high quality. The Welch’s folks knew it. That’s why they signed all the growers to exclusive contracts during World War II. It put us on the map [along with] the wine culture.”
“[A sense of] place for us, is the Italian heritage here . . . the very sensitive areas we have with our trout fishing, and all that brings . . . with scenic communities and the hospitality that goes with it, as well as life-style—I think it’s unique.”
“We said, ‘What’s going to be our approach?’“he questioned.
“Why don’t we act like we’re the tip of the spear and reorganize what we’re doing to be an example for the rest of the Midwest?”
Hoffer said sustainability is one of the criteria important to the millennial generation. “Nielson (the survey firm) tells us that 54 percent of millennial consumers make decisions based on sustainability of products,” he said. “Our products are not only the wine, the beer and hopefully, the distillery, but they are community, too.”
Hoffer noted to achieve the goal of product sustainability, there are many technical challenges to overcome. “It’s very hard for businesses and people to get their hands around,” he said. He pointed to Rolufs as having the network of people that work with the technical challenges on a daily basis—and therefore, the need for the learning center or “fermentation campus” explained by Hoffer.
He explained the start-up phase of the campus and the needed momentum to carry the program forward, noting the success of the town of Hermann to develop their region.
“If we’re looking at this as a community-wide strategy, we’re really doing a “cluster development” strategy,” said Hoffer, giving Silicon Valley and the animal health corridor of I-70 near Kansas City.
“We’re doing a regional-lifestyle cluster development here. We’ll get an identification of the pieces that are missing. If you think about our business—the winery and the brewery—we have direct ties into an agriculture cluster and a restaurant/hospitality cluster here. All of those are the foundation of what our business is built on; and if the banks, county and city governments don’t understand what’s needed, it doesn’t develop as fast,” he said.