Briefly describe your business including who will do what and how. For example: (Name of principal developers) started (name of business) in (year). In (location) we saw an opportunity to (what your business does) by (Here's how we do it).
Workforce Food Centers Principal Developer: Steve Fortenberry Origination of the Concept: In the Fall of 2009, the Youngstown area was very focused on attracting a huge expansion (650 million dollars & 500 jobs) of the V&M Star Steel plant. Knowing that such plants produce heat that often goes unrecovered and that such plants have environmental and PR issues, I thought we could propose to V&M that we could utilize their underutilized assets (heat, surrounding land) by heating water and greenhouses in support of on-site food production. We would "add value" to this growing by integrating our efforts into their existing employee wellness program. With support provided by the FFEF grant, we have developed this concept further. Currently, we are in beginning conversations with the GM Lordstown plant.
Context: What are your objectives, opportunities and challenges?
A great amount of anxiety exists across many sectors of our society. American businesses worry about their longterm viability, due in part to the increasingly high upfront costs of providing healthcare benefits to employees and the longterm accumulative losses of having unhealthy, less productive workers. These same businesses recognize, for varied reasons, that they need to be better stewards of natural resources and more involved in positive societal change. Our concept addresses those anxieties and wants. Our objective is to help employees and businesses become healthier through better eating habits. Eating habits will be greatly enhanced through combining existing wellness programs with the utilization of land around businesses and institutions to produce healthy food. We will need to supplement on-site production by procuring good food from other local producers.
Focus: What specific customers and customer needs are you focused on?
We are dealing with much complexity which include: 1) challenges of waste utilization 2) the design of unique growing systems specific to each site 3) the integration of food produced on-site with the existing food service provider 4) the integration of food production and distribution with the existing employee wellness program 5) the negotiation of code, zoning, and regulatory issues that our unique effort will raise.
Deliverables: What will you deliver to customers and what is critical to your ability to deliver?
We will deliver employee dietary change by making nutritious, tasty, affordable food very convenient for the employees. In order to make good on that promise, we must draw on the healthiest and most productive growing methods and the best of behavioral change research. Not only that, but we must successfully negotiate a wide variety of relationships: with farmers, employees, food service providers, human resource departments, facilities managers, and management.
Commitments: What will your customers, collaborating businesses, and employees expect from you? How will you ensure that you reliably meet their expectations?
The answers to these questions could take pages. While people from many different perspectives have warmed to the idea, it has to make financial sense to everyone in the system. Corporate leaders may want to see it happen, but they must be able to justify the effort to their shareholders--same way with the producers, processors, distributors, and others in the system.
Modeling: What other businesses would you be able to connect with in value or supply chains or networks?
Each Workforce Food Center site would create a mutually beneficial business ecosystem that has the potential to be a catalyst for other local food enterprises.
Community Investment: How will you and your collaborators work together to retain wealth locally? What still needs to be done in this regard?
Our model has the potential to be an important catalyst to local food production. Our work will better leverage the assets of our host businesses, even as we help boost employee productivity and reduce healthcare costs. Those savings and dividends will increase the economic viability of our host businesses, but some of the wealth created will go back to their shareholder base, which is distributed all over the world.
Information: What information, communication plans and information technologies do you need to run your business? What is in place now and what do you still need?
I am aware of an increasing amount of software becoming available to farmers that helps them manage their growing, marketing, and distribution. We will need to avail ourselves of those, but will also have unique software needs as we interface with the food vendors, employees, and distributors.
Knowledge: How will you adapt to change and what resources do you have access to that can help you?
The successful implementation of our model will require a very broad knowledge base, including a basic understanding of the insurance industry, wellness program trends, efficient and adaptable growing methods, the food food service industry, and many others. Because of this, I'm seeking to assemble a team of people with expertise in each field.
Governance: What is the administrative structure for your business? If you consider you and your collaborating businesses as a single entity, how would you operate together?
I certainly need help here. While I envision the growing enterprise to be led by a professional farmer within a larger growers cooperative, the issues of what is grown, when it is grown, where it is grown, and how it is grown, all have to be successfully negotiated among the management, the labor force, the food service, and the insurance and/or wellness management people.

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Public - accessible to all site users

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Value Proposition

Businesses will pay for our services because we will help them better utilize their resources, increase the productivity of their employees, and decrease their healthcare costs as employees make healthier food choices as the develop a closer connection to healthy food that is convenient, affordable, and tasty.


Selling, let alone executing, this concept to a major corporation is a mammoth project in of itself! These corporations want to know they are dealing with the best in the field. To that end, I have been assembling, with assistance from OARDC/FFEF, a team of experts to address the complexities involved. That team includes OSU, OARDC, and YSU professors, an architect, an AVI Food Systems executive, and several other volunteers. This team will be developing a plan to present to GM management. Part of that planning will result in a sequenced strategy to implement the proposal.


There's a certain value in an vegetable that is grown with ecological integrity. We are adding value to that by effectively utilizing on-site resources and by having the growing being done in a highly visible way that is also designed for human interaction. We are further adding value by making this good food convenient to the employees. Since we will not be able to grow everything needed on site, we will need to source other food products, and we want that sourcing to be done as nearby as possible. Because of that, the mapping of other food businesses is very important to our endeavor.

Required Resources

I'm still wanting a representative from the insurance industry to be on this team--and possibly someone in the wellness program business. The complexity and scope of this project requires a lot of management. I'm looking for a business partner for assistance and/or funding that would allow me to spend more time on this work.

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Whitmore's BBQ

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About Whitmore's BBQ


Sandwiches Snack Packs Dinners

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Director of Market Development


Founded in 1972, BFG Supply has a long history of serving the Green Industry including professional growers, lawn & garden centers, landscapers, and indoor growing stores.

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