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Big Ditch, General Welding each get $500,000 low-interest loans

Big Ditch Brewing Co. and Elma manufacturer and retailer General Welding and Fabricating each are getting $500,000 low-interest loans through an affiliate of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

Big Ditch, a fast-growing Buffalo craft brewer, is getting a $500,000 loan through the IDA’s Regional Development Corp. affiliate to triple its brewing capacity and add a canning line that will allow it to sell its beer at grocery stores, possibly including Wegmans, and beverage centers.

The $1.1 million expansion will increase Big Ditch’s brewing capacity from 5,000 barrels a year to about 15,000 barrels, said Jerry Manhard, the RDC’s chief lending officer.

The addition of the canning line will help Big Ditch make its beer available at more stores. About 70 percent of the new brewing capacity already has commitments from customers, he said. The expansion is expected to create four full-time and six part-time jobs at Big Ditch, which currently has 11 full-time and 54 part-time jobs.

Lake Shore Savings Bank is providing a $500,000 loan for the expansion of the brewery, located at 55 E. Huron St., while Big Ditch’s owners are putting up $115,000.

The agency on Wednesday also approved a $500,000 loan for General Welding, an Elma metal manufacturer that makes the ice bikes used at Canalside and other metal products. The company also runs eight Made in America stores in Western New York.

The loan will allow General Welding to expand its production facility at 991 Maple Road and acquire new equipment for the larger factory. It also will allow General Welding to bring back some production that it currently outsources, Manhard said. Made in America also recently signed a contract to sell its goods in Kinney Drug Stores and extended its arrangement to sell items through the 171 Patriot Stores that Veterans Canteen Service operates in Veterans Administration facilities.

Both loans run for 10 years and carry a 4 percent annual interest rate.