Public/private/nonprofit partnership innovates to scale local food efforts
Louisville Metro Government and Seed Capital Kentucky, Inc., a local non-profit focused on growing the local food economy and supporting regional farmers, announced today that they are partnering on the development of the West Louisville Food Hub. The city has granted Seed Capital Kentucky an option to finance and develop a 24-acre site in West Louisville between Market Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard at 30th Street.
The West Louisville Food Hub will be built to serve businesses that aggregate, distribute, process and store food sourced from our region. By locating in one place, these businesses will leverage their assets for scale and efficiency, and build infrastructure that has been lacking in the local food economy. The effort could bring nearly $50 million in investment and 170 new jobs to three of Louisville?s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, and will offer community programs, urban farming, neighborhood gathering space and retail opportunities.
"This project is a green, job-creating machine that has multiple benefits, including helping revitalize the neighborhood and connecting farmers with processors and customers," Mayor Greg Fischer said. "It is a model public-private partnership for our city."
Project partners to date include KHI Foods, a food processing company currently located in Burlington, Kentucky; The Weekly Juicery, a cold-pressed juice producer; Jefferson County Extension Service, which will relocate from its current location and operate a demonstration farm onsite; Village Capital, a business accelerator focused on agricultural start-ups; and Nature?s Methane, an anaerobic digester that will convert organic waste to energy. Discussions are underway with businesses that could add operations including a controlled environment growing farm, a kitchen incubation program, a food bank, as well as multiple retail operations.
The West Louisville Food Hub is the result of three and a half years of work on the part of Louisville Metro and Seed Capital Kentucky to fulfill Fischer?s commitment to grow the local food economy. In 2012, the Local Food Demand Analysis identified a significant unmet demand for local food in Louisville, representing a potential $800 million impact to the local economy if that demand were met. The missing link, according to Seed Capital Kentucky, is the infrastructure to bring together supply and demand.
Caroline Heine, Project Director of Seed Capital Kentucky, explained the need for the West Louisville Food Hub.
?In a capitalist society, market mechanisms usually connect unmet demand with supply,? Heine said. ?Those mechanisms used to exist for local food, but were wiped out by the industrialization of food. The West Louisville Food Hub will begin to fill that gap by allowing more of what farmers produce to reach the state?s largest market. It is good for farmers who grow food and good for people in Louisville who want to buy it.?
The project also accomplishes two short-to mid-term civic goals identified by the the city?s Vision Louisville project: the West Louisville Food Hub itself and a Waste to Energy Plant.
?We want this project to serve as a model partnership between government, non-profits and for-profit businesses to give our community the projects our citizens want most, ? said Seed Capital Kentucky Founder Stephen Reily. ?It will require the best efforts of each sector to make this project succeed.?
The plan is to break ground in early- to mid-2015, and for businesses to open in a phased approach. Some businesses may be operational by the end of 2015, but the majority of businesses should be open for business by the end of 2016. The project has the support of several local foundations, and will be seeking grants from government and national foundations in its capital campaign. It will also leverage New Markets Tax Credits, to complete its financing plan.
Cheri Bryant Hamilton, the Metro Council representative for the area of the West Louisville Food Hub, sees the project as ?contributing to the revitalization of several West Louisville neighborhoods and as a catalyst for other economic development in the area.? She added that, ?new jobs will be created and, hopefully a new retail component will provide access to locally grown, healthy fresh food to help improve the diet-related chronic diseases and food insecurity in the community. The cooking and nutrition classes offered by the Jefferson County Extension Service would contribute toward a long-term positive impact on the lifestyle and health outcomes of the surrounding communities which I hope could be studied to determine the impact of the West Louisville Food Hub on the community.?
Seed Capital Kentucky is a non-profit founded in 2011 to catalyze the success and resilience of Kentucky?s regional agriculture and regional food economy. Its efforts to support regional farmers span from offering technical assistance for farmers to endorsing borrowers on the Kiva Zip platform. Seed Capital Kentucky funded and managed the 2012 Local Food Demand Analysis, the first-of-its-kind analysis of the demand for local food in a metro municipality.