VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- Great Western Malting Co. is brewing up a business expansion at the Port of Vancouver.

After searching for production sites from Salem, Ore., to Ridgefield, Wash., the beer malt company settled on space at the port for a third location for Country Malt, a subsidiary that supplies craft brewers from similar facilities in New York and Chicago.

The new venture, which will employ four to six workers to start, will expand the company's existing malt house operations, which employ 88 workers at the port. In addition to selling malted grains in bulk by the railcar or truckload to large beer makers such as Widmer Brothers, Great Western will soon start selling malt by the bag to smaller brewpubs and other craft brewers.

The company expects to triple the number of products it carries, including a larger malt selection and, for the first time, other beer-making ingredients such as hops and coriander.

"Craft brewing is still growing in the Northwest," said Jay Hamachek, director of North American business development for Great Western Malting. "And Vancouver and Portland are nirvana for the beer drinker."

Hamachek wouldn't disclose how much the company planned to spend on the port expansion, only that it will be a "significant investment."

To house the new operation, Great Western will move into a portion of one of the two port buildings vacated by Panasonic Shikoku Electronics Corp. of America in March 2008. Port commissioners approved a new six-year lease for 43,500 square feet that will hold a bagging and logistics center for the company's new line of products.

The lease encompasses a third of the building's total 137,640 square feet of empty space. Great Western is planning additional expansion and will have first right of refusal on an additional 50,000 square feet, according to the new contract.

The company will pay $1,575 per month in rent, which will adjust at a consistent 2.5 percent each year for a total income of $1,179,272 for six years, plus leasehold excise tax, insurance, common area maintenance and rail wheelage fees, according to the port. The port will pay a $63,686 fee to commercial real estate broker GVA Kidder Mathews, which represented Great Western Malting in the deal.

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