Thrive, UW-Extension: Two new grants support four new regional food business incubators

Contact: Jennifer Smith, Thrive Communications Director, [email protected] 608-443-1961

Find this release and a CBED grant fact sheet online:

Thrive and regional partners secure $110,000 to incubate new companies and products

What/Who: Thrive, UW-Extension and regional partners secure $110,000 to support development of four new food business incubators across the eight-county Madison Region.

Where: Monroe, Mazomanie, Beloit, Madison

Why: The eight-county Madison WI Region already supports 269 food manufacturing companies– 48 employ 50 or more people; 12 employ over 250. Many are corporate headquarters with associated high skill, high wage jobs. New companies and products must be incubated to create and sustain innovation in this industry, which is critical to our agricultural economy. This EDA project will stimulate development of new companies, new products and innovations that will add even greater value to our agricultural resources and ensure continued growth of this key economic sector.

* Food business incubators promote innovation by giving farmers and food entrepreneurs access to facilities and technical assistance to develop new products. With much of the competition located outside of the state and well established, Wisconsin processors must achieve high quality products, cost-efficiencies and persuasive marketing strategies to dislodge those competitors in local, national and international markets. Food business incubators pool the tools, resources and expertise to increase their chances for success.

* One key to maintaining a strong industry cluster is continual investment in and development of start-up companies that spur innovation. Well-managed food business incubators can lower entry costs, reduce risk and increase success rates by providing space, equipment and critical technical assistance to innovative new food processors. A well structured network of food processing incubators in the region can develop focused areas of strength and give farmers and entrepreneurs the tools and support they need to develop their ideas and test their ideas in the market place.

Background: The four funding incubators are all in the early stages of development.

All four new incubators are part of a new network of food business incubators, Wisconsin Food Business Incubator Network, or “Food BIN”. Other incubators in the network include two long-standing facilities (La Crosse, Algoma) and two in the works: Prairie du Chien and Mineral Point.

The facilities in Mazomanie and Beloit are currently able to “co-pack,” i.e., do “custom processing” (as a means of “incubating products” for farmers too busy harvesting but who have recipes developed and markets for new products.)

Mary Pat Carlson, manager of the successful Farm Market Kitchen in Algoma, WI, will be retained as consultant in the EDA grant. She explains that most start-up food processors need more than just a space to rent. They need technical support including basic business development as well as food-industry specific expertise.

QUOTES from Regional Partners and Grant Recipients

“’Heritage Kitchen’ is an initiative of the Mazomanie Regional Heritage Center and the Old Feed Mill Restaurant of Mazomanie. Working with local growers to better convert under-utilized food products into value-added products create jobs in the local economy.” –Dan Viste, Owner, Old Feed Mill

“‘Where do I go?’ was the question we kept hearing from food entrepreneurs and farmers seeking a place to legally produce their products for the market. ‘Someone needs to start a kitchen!’ And so a group of Madisonians are taking on the challenge of developing a Kitchen Incubator to provide a place for food entrepreneurs and value-added food processor to do their food magic. We are grateful for the support that is being provided via the CBED feasibility study.” –Ellen Barnard, project leader, Madison Kitchen Incubator Project

We developed the FRIDGE (Food Resource Incubator Developing Green Entrepreneurs) to increase the economic health, local food security and vitality of Green County. Our goal is to cultivate educational venues and entrepreneurial support to stimulate sustainable, triple bottom line approaches to food, agriculture, energy, livelihood and land stewardship. We look forward to working with the Wisconsin Food Business Incubator Network to gather and share resources to grow successful entrepreneurs.” –Cara Carper, Green County UW Extension

“Bushel & Peck’s is excited for the opportunity to expand its support of the local food movement by increasing local food production and distribution, thereby increasing community sustainability.” –Jackie Gennet, farmer and owner of Bushel & Pecks, a grocery in downtown Beloit.

Grant Overview: $100,000 EDA

Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, flood relief dollars

Granted to Thrive (Thrive keeps $9,000 for administration costs, rest to projects)

Supports three incubators: Monroe, Mazomanie, Beloit; $13,000 each for staff expense and equipment.

About half of funds will buy staff time at UW-Extension for one year to provide technical assistance to all three projects.

Runs one year starting (estimated) October 2009

Framed as a “study” to identify how communities can invest in viable, strategically positioned food business incubators. Funding will provide technical assistance and some equipment to fast track 3 selected projects and evaluate the results via cases study reports.

Grant Overview: $10,000 WI Department of Commerce

Community-based Economic Development (CBED) Grant

Granted to Commonwealth Development of Madison – contact Sarah Hole

Thrive and Cooperative Extension are partners offering in-kind match

CBED supports one incubator in Madison

Runs one year starting July 2009

Funds a “feasibility study” for North Side project led by Ellen Barnard