Innovation Partnership Zone

In October 2015, the Department of Commerce granted Thurston County IPZ status for the Thurston Craft Brewing and Distilling Innovation Partnership Zone. Collaboration and innovation are the dual roads that lead to success in the marketplace. Recognizing the power of partnering with like-minded companies and individuals, Washington has launched Innovation Partnership Zones (IPZ) around the state. In fact, The Washington State Department of Commerce has designated 14 IPZs throughout Washington – each unique and designed to foster collaboration among businesses, organizations, learning institutions, and individuals around a shared goal – boosting commerce through innovation.

Thurston County has a century of tradition around brewing. The Capital Brewing Company (renamed Olympia Brewing Company in 1902) began production in 1896, tapping into the artesian wells located in Tumwater, and using the Deschutes River and Puget Sound as a means to ship products by boat to the Pacific Northwest. Except for the prohibition era, the brewery operated until 2003. It was an institution in the community.

Today, craft brewing and craft distilling are growing industries across the country. Thurston County is home to craft brewing, cider-making, and craft distilling companies. These businesses have access to quality ingredients, manufacturing supplies, and distribution chains. Plus, an increase in craft product demand makes it a prime sector for growth. The Mission of the Thurston Craft Brewing and Distilling IPZ is to ensure a world-class source for craft-brewed beers and ciders and craft distilled spirits which are made from locally grown ingredients by independent expert producers and distributed nationally and internationally to great acclaim.

Current partners in the project include South Puget Sound Community College, City of Tumwater, Washington State University Extension School for Food Science, St. Martin’s University, Washington State University Extension, Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce, Tumwater Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as private developers, grain producers, craft brewers, distillers and cideries. The City of Tumwater and SPSCC collaborated to develop a curriculum for a Craft Brewing and Distilling degree program at SPCC. The degree will include the science and fermentation process of brewing, as well as the business side of the craft brewing industry. Work is underway on a site off of Capitol Boulevard in Tumwater that will be the cornerstone of the project, the “Craft District,” six mixed-use buildings, the first to house SPSCC’s new program with classrooms, a laboratory, production space, offices and a conference room as well as Heritage Distilling Company’s production and tasting rooms.

Washington State University is doing research and grain trials to determine which grains would grow best in the region to produce craft beer using local grains. The upcoming Tumwater Brew Fest will include opportunities to give feedback on taste of sample beers brewed using local grains.

“Thurston County IPZ is a true collaboration of resources,” says Aslan Meade, Director of Strategic Alliances at Thurston EDC. “Top Rung and Sandstone Distillery have accessed the EDC’s Scale Up! Business growth training programs and other businesses have utilized ThiNk to learn more about seeking capital funding to support their businesses in a variety of ways. Locally sourced food and craft beer is such a staple of our region, and the IPZ aligns with our mission to create a dynamic and sustainable economy that supports the values of the people who live and work in Thurston County.”

Partners include:

  • City of Tumwater
  • South Puget Sound Community College
  • Washington State University School for Food Science
  • Saint Martin’s University
  • Washington State University Extension
  • Thurston County Chamber of Commerce
  • Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce
  • Tumwater Area Chamber of Commerce

Learn more! Click here to read  “What Has Thurston County Been Brewing? What You Need to Know – Distilled” 

Connect with our IPZ Partners