Common Wealth Inc.'s Northeast Ohio Kitchen Incubator is a micro-enterprise linchpin for the expanding local foods movement in Northeast Ohio. In Youngstown, partners such as YNDC are building gardens, training farmers, and expanding a working farm in the Idora neighborhood. Grow Youngstown and Goodness Grows provide new points of healthy local food access. All of our projects create sustainable economic opportunities in communities too often written-off. Just as Cleveland is reinventing itself as a local food eco-destination, Youngstown is rapidly taking it's place in the Northeast Ohio Food Movement. Our work focuses on food-based economic development that falls squarely into Youngstown 2010 priorities.
What is the Kitchen Incubator? It's a shared-use commercially licensed kitchen designed to serve this growing local food industry by giving entrepreneurs the ability to create value-added products that bring more lasting locally-owned businesses to Youngstown. From our work with over 60 perspective entrepreneurs (the majority of whom many are low-income Youngstown residents) we know there is substantial demand for our service. A regional study called the 25% Shift: the Benefits of Food Localization for Northeast Ohio & How to Realize them made incubators one of their top policy recommendations. The study surveys the Ohio 2010 Food Congress which found that food incubators were among the top 5 recommendations for desired policy change and support. The reasons are pretty straight forward: food incubators allow micro-enterprise affordable access to expensive and highly regulated commercial space leading to healthy, sustainable, and profitable businesses- a triple bottom line. In short, incubator kitchens create local sustainable jobs and needed infrastructure and they're what entrepreneurs are asking for.
Common Wealth is leading Northeast Ohio as the 3rd project of this sort in the state after Athens and Toledo area have helped pave the way with their successful incubators. The Common Wealth incubator in Youngstown has received generous support to begin the first phase of baking and food service operations available for entrepreneurs imminently.
However, this is only ½ of the recipe for success that other incubators in Ohio have shown. The other half is a commercial thermal processing center for canning where a greater diversity of local foods products can be made, providing entrepreneurs and growers of foods more opportunities for micro-enterprise and purchasing of local products. In fact Leslie Shaller, the director of the ACENet kitchen incubator in Athens, Ohio says that their similarly sized incubator's canning line is used by 55-65% of users and generates that percentage again of income that makes their operations and supervision sustainable (while still offering affordable rates for entrepreneurs). This a vital point to successful operation needed to achieve our goal of creating 16 local jobs from the canning line within 3 years. With the existing kitchen for handling and processing ingredients, the canning line offers a cost-effective way to nearly double production and dollar-for-dollar be one of the easiest ways to invest in job creation and neighborhood development in Youngstown. We need such a thermal processing center to reach our potential as an incubator serving Northeast Ohio.
Conventional co-packing services for thermally processed products can easily start at hundreds of thousands of dollars per batch, a high bar most beginning entrepreneurs cannot jump that has practically no room for failure. Our incubator thermal processing center would lower those costs to a point where many entrepreneurs can try out their businesses in a supportive environment with knowledgeable staff who give coaching and mentoring opportunities to increase the rate of success.
Proposed Supply Chain Category
- Human Capital
- Physical Capital
- Social Capital
- Specialty Crops
- locally grown food