Wisconsin Ag Connection – 02/27/2014
The University of Wisconsin-Extension is in the process of assessing the state’s food processing and manufacturing support infrastructure. This study aims to identify current assets, gaps and industry needs and then will develop a statewide plan which could include a central facility that provides technical assistance to business and entrepreneurs, incubator space and other amenities to spur industry innovations.
The agency was awarded a grant last fall from the Federal Economic Development Association. The funds will enable UW-Extension to bring on board Mary Pat Carlson, a statewide expert on food entrepreneurship and value-added food processing with twelve years experience consulting on starting and operating incubator kitchens as well as founding and running two incubators herself.
“The opportunity to work with the University of Wisconsin-Extension is very exciting,” Carlson said, “Wisconsin has a strong history of innovation in the food sector of the economy. This Economic Development Association supported project will help define what the future holds for emerging, expanding, and established food businesses in the State of Wisconsin by helping identify the resources and support needed for continued growth.”
Supporters say that boosting Wisconsin’s more than 1,000 food processing firms, which employ 62,000 people and have combined annual revenues of $10 billion, would have significant positive impacts on the economy.
To develop the statewide plan, UW-Extension specialists, university experts and industry leaders will visit several research and development facilities in other states to gain perspective on how these types of facilities look and function around the nation. This first-hand knowledge combined with the statewide input, will provide insight on improving Wisconsin’s support infrastructure for food processing and manufacturing and will inform the preliminary business plan for a Wisconsin Food Innovation Facility that will elevate Wisconsin as a national leader in innovative food process and manufacturing.