By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON -- A $2.6 million regional “food hub” based in Canton is one of 21 “priority projects” being submitted for the second round of state funding by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
The 9,000-square-foot facility would distribute locally-grown and raised products to regional wholesalers, restaurants, grocery stores, food co-operatives, schools, hospitals and other institutions, according to the project description featured in the council's progress report.
If established, the hub is expected to create 15 new jobs in the first year in addition to providing expansion opportunities to a variety of small ag-businesses. The hub would use $1.6 million in public funds as well as $1 million in private financing, the proposal says.
"Food processing, back office logistics, marketing, distribution could all be done via the hub," said United Helpers CEO Steven Knight who spearheaded the effort to include the project in this round of funding.
According to the project description, the hub would be used to store, process, market and distribute locally grown and raised products to a variety of wholesale customers.
The facility would consist of a commercial kitchen, cooler and freezer space, areas for cheese, vegetable and meat processing and a loading dock for shipping.
The idea for the hub is not new to the area. The Sustainable Living Project has been working toward the goal for some time with help from other local agriculture interest groups.
"We are building on the local food movement. We've been working on the food hub idea for several months now. It's an aggregate of efforts from a lot of local initiatives," said Knight.
Knight said the project stemmed from a collaboration between Sparks Management Co., a for-profit venture started by United Helpers, and North Country Pastured, a mobile slaughter house that was established with help from state grants obtained by the council in the first round of funding.
Knight said the idea would be to establish a place that could be used to incubate a variety of agricultural businesses.
Last year, the economic development council received a total of $103 million for projects designed to boost economic development throughout the North Country.