Consumers Energy Foundation gave its largest grant ever in Muskegon County – $232,728 – to the West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative on Monday, allowing the initiative to kick off. The grant will be administered through the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

“The initiative can now begin to work toward goals of an industrial park, food processing education, product incubation and logistics”, said Marty Gerencer, initiative manager, during the event at Kitchen 242 downtown Muskegon. “We’re looking at connecting the regional supply chain from farmers to food processors, and ultimately to the consumers.”

The initiative will be based in Muskegon and seek to expand the region’s agricultural base to include exports beyond Michigan, as far as Asia. Muskegon is an ideal location due to its proximity to fruit and vegetable growers, access to underused waste water treatment and the deep-water port, according to program documents.

There are four key areas in which the initiative will work:

  • Implementation: Identify industrial processing locations, existing or potential; identify and link supply chain; and identify target industries with plans to expand and export to Asia
  • Education/training: Link to education partners; identify labor needs; and build food processing education curriculum with customized options
  • Product development incubator: link incubator kitchens in Muskegon and the region for product development; set up collaborations with culinary programs for test restaurants; and expand food processing incubation locations
  • Logistics: Promote the Port of Muskegon as a key agriculture port; assist development of cross lake shipping services; increase rail and shipping capacity; and assist with distribution networks

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