Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

This story ran in the The Dodgeville (WI) Chronicle November 19, 2009. The article is not yet on line. Subscribe to the Dodgeville Chronicle by calling 608 935 2331

Food Innovation Kitchen will help launch new businesses

Published November 19, 2009


Iowa County will soon become home to one of the most creative economic development projects in the country - The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen - which has the potential for starting and growing hundreds of unique small businesses.

The Innovation Kitchen is a new, state certified food processing facility owned by the Hodan Center. It will also be available for public access, as a shared use community processing and marketing kitchen. Foods made here can legally be sold to the public.

The Hodan Center broke ground for the 10,000 square foot processing and retail facility four months ago at its previous Dairy Queen/Miners Point property in Mineral Point. Currently under construction, it is expected to open in early 2010.

"The kitchen will be available on an hourly rental basis to food entrepreneurs and small businesses," explained Rick Terrien, Executive Director of the Iowa County Area Economic Development Corporation (ICAEDC). The community shared-use portion of the project is being coordinated and marketed by the ICAEDC.

"We have an agreement that I'll do the entrepreneurship and business work, and the Hodan Center will do all of the kitchen work," Terrien said.

"The Hodan Center has created varied work opportunities for the client-employees they serve," he added. " Among other things, they have developed a line of their own food products. - dry goods, wet gods, gift baskets, and other things, - called 'Papa Pat's' Their products are in about 700 stores in 26 states. They've gotten so good at doing this, they ran out of space. It's an Iowa County economic development success story."

Last year The Hodan Center requested a Community Development Block Grant for the kitchen from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. They were awarded a grant for $750,000.

Community access kitchens have been tried at various places in Wisconsin. The most successful model is a ten year-old venture in Algoma, called The Farm Market Kitchen.

"They have a small kitchen with 80 food businesses. Chocolatiers, bakers, people making mixes, sauces and salsas come from four counties away to process foods and start businesses there," Terrien said. "Most of them come in the evenings, because they are doing their small business start-up in addition to their day jobs."

"A great benefit for this project in Iowa County is that we have our own anchor tenant (Hodan Center) and the tenant already has people to work there, along with knowledge and experience in food processing," he said.

The Hodan Center client-employees will use the kitchen 5 days a week for their own products. Evenings and weekends it will be available to regional food entrepreneurs for starting or expanding their food businesses.

"In 35 years as an entrepreneur, I've never seen an easier or more affordable opportunity for starting your own small business than this Innovation Kitchen," Terrien said enthusiastically. His experience ranges from teaching basic business start-ups to having businesses with clients on six continents.

Now he is working out the kitchen details with Annette Pierce, Food Service Administrator at Hodan Center. The Hodan Center plans to offer its services to kitchen renters at an affordable price, and can help with supplying discounted ingredients, if entrepreneurs wish.

There are five different ways for food entrepreneurs to access the kitchen. On the most basic end of the spectrum are people who want to bring in their own ingredients, do all of the work, package their products at the kitchen site and sell it there. The front portion of the building will serve as a retail display area for products made by The Hodan Center and the entrepreneurs.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who want to have a food processing business without doing the work. They have the option of handing The Hodan Center a recipe which its client-employees would produce, package and label with the entrepreneur's own logo. The other options range between these two extremes.

"People can do a slow start-up with this. They don't have to be Donald Trump," Terrien said. "They can bring an idea to my office and I'll show them a basic, entry level business plan. I'll help them understand the possibilities and their responsibilities."

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