Food Processing and Innovation Center Helps Agribusiness EntrepreneursBy Jane Whitttington on September 8th, 2015 /
Michigan State University has long been known as a place where innovation in agriculture is commonplace. It was originally founded as an agricultural college and remains committed to advancing the art and science of farming. Now plans are underway to build on that experience and develop a Food Processing and Innovation Center (FPIC), a commercial park focused on the food, agriculture and beverage industries. Companies interested in creating and/or growing a business will have access not only to the physical facility but also to professional services designed to assist the participating companies in their desires to scale up production while keeping costs low. MSU’s extraordinary expertise in agriculture will power the venture.
Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of its agriculture industry and ranks as the number one producer of 11 commodities. Estimates are that with 20 clients per year, the FPIC could generate $300-$400 million in sales, which would result in up to 1,000 jobs a year in the Lansing area.
The FPIC has received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This was matched by a $1 million grant from the state of Michigan and $1.6 million from Michigan State University.
Currently, the facility is in the design phase. FPIC will occupy a 7,000 square foot building which is being renovated for its needs and is close to the MSU campus. Its location in the business park is close to other food related operations. The facility will include industrial grade food preparation and packaging equipment. The renovation and retrofitting began in the spring, and the FPIC should be up and running by fall.
According to John Melcher, Associate Director of the Center for Community and Economic Development at MSU, “We are partnering with a number of organizations including the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and several MSU departments including, of course, agriculture but also the schools of packaging, food science, and others.”
He continues, “Agriculture is an ever-changing industry; today small farmers can find it tough to stay in the game. We will help entrepreneurs commercialize both food products and the processes of production. For the most part, we will focus on stage 2 businesses, those who have a business in place but want to grow, diversify and/or enter new markets.”
Matt Birbeck, Senior Project Director of FPIC, says, “The businesses we will primarily be working with are those which generate between $10 and 20 million in revenue and employ 10-50 people. They are looking to grow to the next level.”
He continues, “The FPIC will give food companies the opportunity to produce new products at a low cost and with minimal risk. Their access to experts will help them make good decisions going forward. Both our portfolio of services as well as access to sophisticated, state-of-the-art processing equipment will be second to none. The facility will be fully functional, and clients can create new products and begin to sell them.”
The endeavor is an exciting prospect for Michigan’s farmers, food producers and agribusiness entrepreneurs who want to move to the next level in their business growth.