Monday, February 28, 2011

Executive Q&A: Rick Terrien is dedicated to helping people start businesses

Jane Burns, of the Wisconsin State Journal wrote a good piece about our work in this Sunday's paper.

A great opening sentence: "Rick Terrien is always starting something."

Ms. Burns closed the interview with a realistic outline of my ideas about 'slow startups':

"I'm a glass-half-full guy. I've never seen more opportunities in my entire life, and not just in food. Entrepreneurs fix things that are broken and if you can't see things that are broken, you're not looking. The problem comes when you promise people they can be Donald Trump and that they can do it quickly.

My job is to slow them down, but start them. Because it's going to take longer doesn't mean don't start. It means start now. Put a toe in. Make a few mistakes. And it's pretty unlikely you're going to become Donald Trump. On the other hand, you can create a business that will support your family and your community.

I think it's a thrilling time to be an entrepreneur."

Wisconsin State Journal interview link. "Rick Terrien is dedicated to helping people start businesses."

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Food as the biggest picture

This post returns to the big picture and the role of local foods, regional food systems and the kind of experiments that might be valuable to run to make the world a better place.

Continually worsening energy issues only complicate the food issues discussed below. It's clear we need to diversify all these systems. We need to run some new experiments to find ways of getting out of this.

The cover of last week's Bloomberg Business Week was devoted to the possibilities of an emerging food crisis. The full title of the cover is "Weather, Speculation, And Politics Have Created A Global Food Crisis That Threatens... Everything."

The article (linked below) is titled, "Hungry for a solution to rising food prices. Even if global agriculture crisis doesn't turn cataclysmic, it represents a huge test."

The United States may be insulated from the worst of the damaging effects of the food crisis, but we are not immune. Our communities are filled with vulnerable children and families who are in growing, often desperate need of nutrition and food security.

The Business Week article is largely macro-economic and significantly scary. It calls for action from everyone.

One important role the Innovation Kitchen, and now our new Food Action Alliance network can provide is a platform for running valuable business experiments in regional food systems. Our FACT Alliance will start with 3 food processing facilities. Next year we will grow it to 10 facilities and then to 50.

If we can find ways to move increasing quantities of good, local nutrition at increasingly affordable prices to our regional population centers, that's something worth replicating and sharing.

We ran the first of these kinds of experiments during the 2010 growing season, just after the Innovation Kitchen opened last July. Last year we quoted jobs in hundred and thousand pound quantities. That will continue, but this year, we are also quoting 100,000 pound quantities. There is a market.

The most rewarding piece of these experiments is that customers are returning and placing new orders for the coming growing season. After many years doing start ups, I can honestly say you can't fake this customer-reordering piece. It happens, or it doesn't.

I am convinced by the evidence that we need these new small processing facilities and they can be operated profitably and sustainably. I am convinced these facilities can act independently and collaboratively. I am convinced we can grow this collaborative network wisely and in ways that can help the emerging food crisis in positive ways and in ways that can be widely replicated.

We will need help from partners in the marketplace, in government and in NGOs to help run these experiments.

We need change. We need new approaches. Our experiments starting in Southwest Wisconsin will make a contribution to the bigger debate worldwide.

As the Business Week article closed out, we have little choice but to act:

"Civilization has faced down pandemics and world wars—and has emerged stronger for having met the test. The current series of droughts and floods are not simply wreaking havoc on food supplies. They're harbingers of life in a hotter and more chaotic climate. Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act?"

Now is the time to launch smart, new experiments in food and energy efficiency. Not everything will work, but if we don't find what does, nothing else will.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

"Hungry for a solution to rising food prices." By Eric Pooley and Philip Revzin in Bloomberg Business Week, Feb. 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reporting delicious economic success!

As we ramp up the Innovation Kitchen I'm reporting here on different facets of the project. The last post was about our emerging regional network.

This one is about a delicious success story from within the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

The Innovation Kitchen is owned by the Hodan Center in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It is is a shared-use food preparation and processing facility.

I've been describing this effort as a series of experiments. The idea is to learn from everything and get better every day.

Some experiments just plain work. A great example of this is Matt D'Amour and his Inside Out Wellness food line. Matt's recipes for organic, gluten free flax crackers and granola are wonderful.

Matt had not been a food entrepreneur but teaches the value of wellness. He knew that a food line designed for people with specific health or wellness goals would be a real contribution.

Matt came in under our 'artisan food career' program. Initially Matt came into the Innovation Kitchen and prepared his own recipes. At the same time, Matt was able to engage the professional staff in ways they could all learn the process together. Annette and her team utilized these training sessions to help Matt transfer recipe preparation to the in-house professionals.

Matt was then able to turn his attention to marketing and sales.

Ta da!

Matt's line was initially welcomed by our Metcalfe's Market at Hilldale, in Madison.

The Inside Out Wellness line has now also been brought into our Willy Street Co-ops (East and West), the local Whole Foods, and the Regent Street Market among others. Congratulations and good on ya, Matt!

Here is what makes my glass half full about all this.

Matt was able to start a new food enterprise using our shared kitchen platform at the Innovation Kitchen. He was able to utilize the professional staff to quickly transition from recipe development to commercial production.

Importantly - in a survival of the fittest way - Matt did his homework and he made cold calls. He did the heavy lifting of learning what was needed and then he went out and found customers for his wonderful food products.

Was this easy? Of course not. Matt was one of the first new food entrepreneurs to come into the Innovation Kitchen and he helped us learn and grow this part of the enterprise. What impresses me most is that Matt paid the 'patience tax', learned what was needed to launch this kind of enterprise, and then used his time carefully to develop his recipes and then transfer their preparation to the professionals inside the Innovation Kitchen.

The Innovation Kitchen team also then packages and labels Matt's great line of foods for his new customers.

Along the way, Matt has helped create much-needed jobs in Southwest Wisconsin with his success.

Matt is a great example of what a person can do - given some gumption and the willingness to pay the 'patience tax' - with a food preparation and processing platform like the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. Our new FACT Alliance network partners will help us share this adventure with increasingly more people.

These kinds of experiments in food processing and distribution can make all kinds of people and all kinds of economic development goals healthier.

Best part? My office is at the Innovation Kitchen and I get to eat the experiments.

Congratulations, Matt, and all the great food partners working through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen!

My favorite part of Matt's early success story is the short phrase he puts on every label. It's a little bit of truth with a big, wonderful story behind it:

“Handmade with Love"

Matt's Inside Out Wellness site

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Hodan Center

Metcalfe's Market

Whole Foods, Madison, WI

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Launching our network of shared-use food processing and distribution facilities - the Food Action Alliance

There is a large, growing, demand for good local and regional foods year-round.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is a shared-use facility dedicated to providing not only commercial food processing tools, but also professional processing services.

Given the chorus of positive feedback this model is getting from customers and growers, I'm convinced we need to increase this capacity. The markets are there.

To that end, three neighboring facilities in Southwest and Southern Wisconsin are joining into a collaborative alliance to provide small and mid-scale food processing, packaging, storage and distribution services for regional food partners.

We're going to organize under a voluntary, collaborative model we're calling the Food Action Alliance, or FACT Alliance. The web site will be

The first three facilities to join as partners in the this new collaborative alliance are the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen (Hodan Center, Mineral Point), Sharing Spaces Kitchen (Opportunity Center, Prairie du Chien), and Greenco Industries in Monroe.

This project is designed to learn what works and doesn't work in this kind of collaborative regional food system. We will run the experiments and continuously improve, with a goal of replicating the model into a growing network of local food processing centers.

Here is the outline:

Project Mission

Our mission is to develop an increasing capacity for providing an increasing amount of good local and regional foods to an increasing number of people at increasingly affordable prices.

The Food Action Alliance, (FACT Alliance)
The Food Action Alliance, (FACT Alliance), is a collaborative network of small and mid-scale food processing, packaging, storage and distribution facilities and services. The first three network partners are wonderful community organizations serving people with disabilities in South and Southwest Wisconsin.

At the launch of this network these three partners are working together:

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point is in place to prepare, package, label, store and ship large quantities of many foods, all through a beautiful a state-inspected commercial kitchen.

Greenco Industries in Monroe offers food packaging services, (FDA & USDA inspected), and 4,500 square feet of food-grade refrigeration, storage and distribution capabilities.

The Sharing Spaces Kitchen in Prairie du Chien broke ground in Oct. 2010 and expects to open this year. The Innovation Kitchen and Sharing Spaces Kitchen have been partnering with with one another since the start and together will offer 16,000 square feet of regional food processing, storage, shipping, and sales capacity.

In combination, these three network partners will have over 20,000 square feet of regional food processing and distribution capacity, while providing new marketing and sales channels for our growers. The effort will also create new jobs across our region.

"Local-food facilities plan to join forces"

The publication The Country Today did a very nice story this week about our new Food Action Alliance. Here are a few quotes:

"Three southwestern Wisconsin food-processing facilities are making plans to work together to meet a growing urban demand for local food."

"The facilities employ developmentally disabled people from five counties to process and package food for local farmers and food companies."

"Local food-processing plants are the missing link between farmers and urban markets, Terrien said. He said there are about 35 million people within a half day's drive of southwestern Wisconsin, and they are looking for locally produced food."

"Terrien said Karen Lehman, executive director of Fresh Taste, an organization formed to advance local agriculture and healthful eating in Chicago, recently brought a five- state delegation to the Innovation Kitchen and left impressed.

"She said, ‘We have 8 million people in the Chicago metro area and this is what we need,' " Terrien said. "She said these kinds of facilities build communities and human capital."

"Terrien said he's optimistic that the Food Action Alliance project will take off.
'It's the next layer up,' he said. 'We're going to try three facilities working together first and then next year go to 10 and then after that go to 50.'"

Thanks to Jim Massey, Editor at The Country Today for a good story.

Our new food processing network is at the heart of one of America's great growing regions, and is within a half day's drive of 35 million people.

What a network like this represents to small and mid-scale food enterprises and consumers alike, are proprietary food processing supply chain services, where foods and their preparation can be regional, local, and even farm-identified. All product lines going through the network can be marketed under FACT Alliance shared brands or private labeled under customers' own brands.

In reality we will need all kinds of help, especially customers and sponsors, who would like to partner with us to grow this kind of network.

I'm convinced we can use these kinds of platforms to create jobs and to get increasing amounts of good food to growing numbers of people.

Our Food Action Alliance network is underway!

The Country Today article introducing the new 3-facility Food Action Alliance. Access fee charged

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, in Mineral Point, WI.

Greenco Industries, in Monroe, WI

Sharing Spaces Kitchen at the Opportunity Center in Prairie du Chien, WI.

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

Monday, February 07, 2011

White House Super Bowl Party features Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and Iowa County food treasures

What a great game for Packer nation worldwide.

Our wonderful local-food connection also needs telling...

The President and Mrs. Obama hosted a Super Bowl party at the White House for the big game last night. Madison Mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, was invited and brought some great local foods to the party in D.C.

Three of his party-gifts have great connections to Iowa County, Wisconsin, food, fun and agriculture.

Included in his gifts was the wonderful pumpkin tortelloni from RP's Pasta, in Madison.

We are so proud to be a partner with Peter Robertson and RP's, a great local-foods enterprise success story.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen worked under Peter's direction to prepare their pumpkin recipe for filling their (did I say delicious?) raviolis and tortellonis.

Here is what Peter said about the process recently, quoted in last month's Capitol Region Business Journal:

"Peter Robertson, owner of RP’s Pasta in Madison, works with the Innovation Kitchen to fulfill the needs of a very specific food profile. 'We consciously made the choice that everything we have access to would be made in Wisconsin,' he said.

Although several commercial suppliers could make processed foods available, Robertson opted to go with the Mineral Point facility to provide vegetables for his stuffed ravioli and tortellini.

'They did it fast. They did it efficiently. And it’s 100 percent Wisconsin products,' he said."

This is a really fun story for those of us at the Innovation Kitchen: A Super Bowl party at the White House and a Packer victory.

More important than all that? A satisfied, engaged customer. Thank you and congratulations, Peter and RP's Pasta!

And Iowa County continued to shine with Mayor Dave's party gifts with the addition of Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese from Dodgeville.

Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve won the 2010 American Cheese Society's annual competition, besting over 1400 of the nation's finest cheeses to be crowned Best of Show.

Think of what Uplands Cheese has done – they have won the American Cheese Society’s highest honor three times in the last ten years while no other cheese has won more than once.

And to complete the fun, Mayor Dave also brought beer from the amazing Lake Louis Brewery in Arena. This great regional brewery produces many wonderful year-round and seasonal beers in Iowa County. Arena is our beautiful Gateway to the Wisconsin River Valley.

Congratulations to Mike, Carol, Andy, and everyone at Uplands Cheese!

Congratulations everyone at Lake Louis!

Innovation Kitchen goodies at the White House Super Bowl party!

Packers win!

What fun!

"What Did Mayor Dave Bring to Super Bowl Party?" Wisconsin State Journal 2/6/2011

RP's Pasta

Uplands Cheese Company. Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. Dodgeville, Iowa County, Wisconsin.

Lake Louis Brewing In beautiful Arena, Iowa County, Wisconsin. Check out their beer styles

Capitol Region Business Journal article about the Innovation Kitchen. PDF format. About 1.1 MB

Photo is of Nick Collins scoring leap, following his interception and runback. Photo is borrowed from the Packers site without asking. Please visit their site for letting me borrow their photo.

Video of Nick Collins interception at the Huffington Post. My 'play of the game'. Interesting sale of the Huffington Post to AOL today.

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Local and regional foods create economic development

There are many definitions of 'local', and all of us can find a version that works best personally.

My friend Karen Lehman from the group Fresh Taste (Chicago) uses 250 miles. Others use more or less, or utilize political boundaries. Rich Pirog and the Leopold Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State make great sense by defining the process in terms of 'regional food systems', a term that can jump political boundaries.

No matter what you use for a definition, the impact of buying foods that are produced in the region you live in creates a big, positive economic impact for you and your regional communities.

Here is a quote I'm borrowing from our great 'Something Special From Wisconsin' group, within the Wisconsin Department of Ag:

"On average, locally purchased products return $.70 of every dollar to the local economy. Non-local products return only $.40. Steve Deller, an economist at the UW-Madison, states that for every $100,000 of new sales of local food, 2.2 jobs are created and $77,000 of income is brought back in."

Sounds like a plan. This is what our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is hoping to nurture. We are focusing on preparing and processing regional foods to supply good, healthy food at a scale that can make an impact in our region.

I believe appropriate-scale, collaborative food processing and distribution networks represent the missing links needed for increasing the economic development momentum we now see growing in local and regional foods.

Our new three-facility regional food processing and distribution network (the Food Action Alliance) should be able to run some valuable new experiments needed to grow these kind of systems. I hope to outline our new FACT Alliance network and its early goals in the next post.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Fresh Taste

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Something Special from Wisconsin

Iowa County Area Economic Development Come Grow With Us