Rural development through the business of food: Examples from USA and Canada

In an exciting public-private initiative, Northumberland County, Ont., recently constructed a food processing center that was requested by the local farm sector during a BRE survey (Economic Development.org). The 15,000-square-foot facility will be a pay-to-play center for product development and food processing; the county is paying half of its $2.3 million price tag. The center is now receiving about four inquiries per day from businesses interested in using the facility.

Small towns like Traverse City, Mich., are finding value in expanding local food businesses (Good Food Economy Digest). But traditional banks are not always ideal partners in this process: “Local food and sustainable agriculture financing requires the kind of ’relationship lending’ that involves getting to know a borrower and his or her business. Financial underwriting today, however, allows for little of such qualitative information.” The Northwest Michigan Food and Farm 20/20 Fund is filling this niche by providing small-scale, specialized financing to promising food companies. In its first year, 2013-2014, the fund loaned to 11 businesses, which helped create 13 full-time jobs across five counties.

Rural America may look different in the future as technology increases crop yield and profitability, altering how our food is grown and by whom (Industry Week). “Smart farmers” are poised to reshape the business of agriculture through data and cutting-edge equipment. Venture capitalists are taking note, looking toward valleys other than the silicon one. Last year, $2.36 billion in venture capital was invested in ag tech, compared to $2.1 billion in clean tech.

Source: IEDC ED Now

 

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