08.28.09

Leahy Highlights Food Hub In Hardwick, Secures $350,000 For New Food Venture Center

… $1.5 M. Stimulus Grant Application Would Complete Hardwick Kitchen Incubator Funding

HARDWICK, Vt. – During a Friday morning visit to Vermont Soy, a business that graduated from the Vermont Food Venture Center, Sen. Patrick Leahy announced he had secured a $350,000 federal grant to help construct, equip and operate a new Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick’s industrial park.  Leahy said the new kitchen incubator was needed to expand the food-based and agricultural-based economy of rural Vermont.
 
The Vermont Food Venture Center, founded in Fairfax, Vt. in 1996 by the Economic Development Council of Northern Vermont (EDCNV), is a kitchen incubator that offers affordable rental food production and packaging space to entrepreneurs interested in starting their own food-based business.  The center also offers technical assistance to clients in the areas of food production, development, packaging and marketing.  According to EDCNV Executive Director Connie Stanley Little, since 1996, 83 businesses, many of them micro businesses operated by Vermonters, have emerged from the center.
 
Stanley Little said that the new Vermont Food Venture Center, dubbed Vermont Food Venture Center2, will offer entrepreneurs nearly 14,000 square feet of multipurpose kitchen space.  She explained that the move to Hardwick was made possible thanks to two Hardwick-area businesses which have already reserved space in the new facility.  Vermont Soy plans to make and package soy-based tofu in the facility and Jasper Hill Farms intends to expand cheese making operations in the center.  The new center will be equipped not only with specialty food production capabilities, but also feature a dairy production cell and a meat processing cell, Stanley Little said.
 
“This project will put people to work for decades to come developing new small businesses, enhancing Hardwick’s agriculture-based and food-based economy and giving entrepreneurial Vermonters new opportunities.” said Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee.  “Hardwick has become a national model for the future of agriculture.  It has become a test bed where new agricultural technologies come to grow, where young and vibrant farmers are starting new farms instead of closing old ones and where food is more than a meal – but a way of life, a career and a science.”
 
“The creation of new food-based businesses through the Vermont Food Venture Center will help build strong local agricultural economies throughout the state,”   said Andrew Meyer, co-owner of Vermont Soy.  “Vermont Soy is an example of how the Food Venture Center has helped provide eager entrepreneurs the tools and support to develop a successful food business.”
 
“The Vermont Food Venture Center represents the spirit of Vermont, and it is appropriate that it is moving to Hardwick,” said Todd Hardie, owner of Honey Gardens Apiaries – a one-time client of the Vermont Food Venture Center.  “By collaboration and working together, the Venture Center brings people and natural raw materials together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
 
During the visit to Vermont Soy, Leahy also announced that the Economic Development Council of Northern Vermont in conjunction with Northern Enterprises has submitted a $1.5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant application to the Economic Development Administration to complete the $3 million project.  Leahy said he had brought this application to the attention of EDA leadership, and a decision is expected by the end of September.
 
In July, the Vermont Community Development Program awarded a $650,000 Vermont Community Development Program grant for the Vermont Food Venture Center.  Leahy said this grant, federal funds administered by the State of Vermont, would not have been possible without the support of Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn and Northeastern Vermont Development Association Executive Director Steve Patterson.  Combined with a previous $100,000 Leahy-secured grant and a $500,000 United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant, Stanley Little said the funding for the project is almost complete.  She said the EDCNV will seek bids for the project in the coming months, with hopes of starting construction in either late fall or early spring.
 
The EDCNV, headquartered in St. Albans, Vt., is Vermont's only EDA-designated district.  EDCNV is an active participant in a wide array of economic initiatives throughout Northern Vermont, including telecommunications, international trade, finance, manufacturing, commerce, tourism and agriculture.

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