Who We Are
The West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative was established in October 2017 with support from the Consumers Energy Foundation in cooperation with the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, the City of Muskegon, Muskegon County, and many other organizations all committed to “planting the seeds of connectivity” throughout West Michigan.
Bundle existing local agriculture attributes with the benefits of expanding regional food processing capabilities. Position the results in a location to thrive. Food processing in Michigan has the potential for rapid growth especially in export markets.
There is a strong base of agricultural and food processing related activity throughout Michigan and West Michigan to include location and establishment of food processing operations, education training, and product development and incubation. What is missing is a holistic view of the sector to include alignment and integration of synergistic strategies and opportunities.
In addition, the positive results of growing the industry can become a basis for addressing economic challenges in the region. Michigan’s 300 agricultural commodities can supply products for natural food providers, ready-to-eat products, and private label markets. Export opportunities exist for raw products and processed foods that will drive economic growth.
American food products are highly sought in international markets because of their quality and safety. Food products produced using renewable energy is a marketing trend with growth potential that matches Michigan’s ability to meet this energy demand.
Why West Michigan and Muskegon
West Michigan is home to one of Michigan’s principal agricultural regions with over 5,000 farms in the surrounding area. With a long history of food processing, the region is a prime location for expanding and growing the sector. Muskegon, which is centrally located within the agricultural area, is the ideal location with its many attributes to become a principal location for attracting some of this new growth to include the following factors:
- Strategic access to prime fruit and vegetable growers and proximity to other agricultural suppliers.
- Access to underutilized waste water treatment capacity.
- Michigan’s fresh water capacity.
- Michigan’s growing renewable energy sector.
- Logistic and distribution attributes — Western Michigan’s largest commercial deep water port with easy access to rails and highways. Proposed Cross Lake Shipping provides direct links to western U.S. and Asian markets.
How it will work
- Lead development of a “shovel ready” food processing industrial park
- Identify existing or potential locations for developing the food processing industrial park
- Identify and link supply chain from “farm to table”
- Identify target industries who plan to expand within North American or export markets
- Link to education partners including Michigan State University, Muskegon Community College, and others
- Identify labor pool needs with focus on youth and veterans
- Lead development of product development and incubation center of excellence
- Link existing “kitchens” in Muskegon and other locations in region for product development
- Connect start-up food processers to incubator space where food innovation counselors assist in development and commercialization of high-value products
- Set up collaboration with culinary programs to locate test restaurant incubator for graduating chefs
- Promote Port of Muskegon as key agriculture port
- Assist development of Cross Lake Shipping service for new market growth
- Assist with development of increased rail and shipping capacity for supply chain for a regional food processing cluster
- Assist with establishment of food hub and distribution networks