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Eastern Shore Brewery Helps Boost Local Economy

Metal kegs and oak barrels are stacked two heads high in the main brewing room at the Burley Oak Brewery in Berlin, Md. Owner Bryan Brushmiller and his small team of brew masters are doing what they do best this morning: making beer — lots of it.

Brushmiller was out of work and making beer for fun in his garage just two years ago when he decided to take out a loan and create his own job.

The business took off. Burley Oak beer is now in 80 restaurants across Maryland and D.C.

"The one thing I'm most proud about is that I've created eight other jobs for other people, and they're full time, full year-round jobs," he says.

"Year-round jobs" is the magic phrase for people who live on the coast.

Bill Badger is the economic development director in Worcester County. He says the big problem for the coastal workforce is that seasonal jobs dry up in late September, and that makes the unemployment rate skyrocket.

"We actually last year had the highest average unemployment rate in the state of Maryland and that's unacceptable," he says. "You know our economy is a seasonal economy with tourism and agriculture, but we can do better."

Badger says that better way might be Brushmiller's approach: create smaller businesses that operate year round, making products that aren't just marketed to summer tourists.

Bill Badger says the long-term focus should be to create businesses that will allow folks to stay on the coast, rather than just visit.

"People that live here and work here need to see opportunity beyond the seasonal jobs," says Badger.

Brushmiller agrees.

"So, this type of light manufacturing is not only going to help this regional market, but I think it'll help America in general, because what we are doing is making something."

Burley Oak Brewery is about to start bottling and selling its beers to distributors and retailers. Brushmiller says that will double his overall production.

And if all goes as planned, Brushmiller might need to hire some more help in the not too distant future.


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