When Matt S. Erskine, assistant secretary, U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) visited Philadelphia, he learned how the agency’s investments are spurring economic growth in the city.
While touring The Enterprise Center, Erskine was briefed on the soon-to-open $6 million Center for Culinary Enterprises (CCE) — a comprehensive commercial kitchen designed to be a catalyst for creating food-related jobs and businesses.
In 2010, EDA made the initial $1.5 million investment in the CCE, a 13,000 square foot facility that will house shared-use commercial kitchens for use by emerging food businesses.
The EDA prepares the nation’s regions for growth and success in the international economy.
“When we do our work, I think it’s important to see the impact here in the communities. We work all across the country co-investing and supporting locally grown economic development, plans and strategies. We’re super excited to be a part of the Center for Culinary Enterprises,” said Erskine.
“What makes EDA special is that we’re really the only federal government agency that is exclusively devoted to economic development, and our bottom-up approach in supporting the economic development and strategies that our local partners bring together.”
TEC President Della Clark says the $1.5 million in EDA funding made it possible to launch the commercial kitchen project. TEC was able to leverage EDA’s investment into attracting state and local government, private foundation and corporation funding.
Clark says the CCE’s goals include giving food entrepreneurs the opportunity to legitimize their businesses by having access to commercial kitchen space.
“Many people have come to us over the years with food products and had recipes but they didn’t have a place to go and commercialize those products, develop that recipe and work on it — and this will afford them that opportunity to do so,” Clark says of the CCE.
“We will be able to take those entrepreneurs who are working out of their home and help them legitimize.”
The center plans to launch or accelerate at least 10 new food businesses each year that will create between 36 and 63 jobs annually. The center will also work to place 50 individuals in workforce positions in the culinary industry and train 100 high school students in restaurant and hospitality management.
CCE clients will have the opportunity to take part in a business incubator program called Philly Food Ventures, where TEC’s business development professionals will provide technical assistance for culinary entrepreneurs.
According to Clark, the center has forged a key partnership with Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania. The food service management company has made a yearly commitment to purchase about $500,000 products from CCE entrepreneurs. Bon Appétit was also instrumental in helping design CCE’s commercial kitchen space. Clark says TEC seeks to form similar partnerships with other area universities.
The CCE is slated to officially open on September 14 at 11 a.m. at 310 South 48th Street.
Willie C. Taylor, regional director, EDA Philadelphia Regional Office, says the CCE has spurred interest from other states around the country who are interested in starting similar commercial kitchen projects.
“When the EDA makes an investment, it’s not just for the local residents and businesses to benefit. We try to make investments that are also replicable and serve as models of potential best practices nationwide,” says Taylor.
As he toured TEC, Erskine was impressed with the number of young people who were on site to learn about entrepreneurship.
“President Obama wants to support innovation in whatever form it takes, as long as it shows that innovation is leading to job creation and investment activity,” Erskine added.
“Here’s how a community is creating jobs — and it’s right in line with what the president is trying to do.”
Erskine’s also visited the EDA-funded University City Science Center which supports technology commercialization and technology-based economic development on the campus and in the Greater Philadelphia region. The center provides lab and office space for start-up, growing and established companies. In the region about 15,000 people are employed by 93 companies who have graduated from the Science Center.
During 2011, the Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Funding Program received $1 million from the EDA. The Science Center’s QED Program is the nation’s first multi-institutional proof-of-concept program for life science technologies.
Erskine was in town for the 2012 EDA Philadelphia Regional Conference where more than 300 stakeholders and grantees convened July 9–11 at the Loews Hotel.