As part of their efforts to spur small-business innovation, North Idaho economic development officials are assessing the interest and need for a commercial kitchen facility that would be available for contract use by small food producers throughout the region – including northwestern Montana and northeastern Washington.
The effort is being led by the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation in cooperation with the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency, Bonner County, Bonner County Fair Board and City of Sandpoint. But to bring the project to fruition, the BCEDC needs to hear from all interested parties throughout the region who want to see a new commercial kitchen established to support entrepreneurial efforts.
The project would revive the commercial kitchen previously located at the Sandpoint Business Incubator. That facility was closed in 2014, when the incubator space was converted to single use for the expansion of Bio-Medical Innovations. All the equipment from the former commercial kitchen is currently in storage and remains in fine condition.
Paul Kusche, executive director of the BCEDC, said the groups see the commercial kitchen as a great economic development tool – providing that the interest exists.
“While I am a strong proponent of the 'If you build it they will come' strategy, it is important that we learn the level of demand that might exist today,” he said. Kusche himself is a retired food executive with over 43 years of food manufacturing and consulting experience.
“Providing a leasable kitchen facility – one that's FDA approved and capable of handling refrigerated, frozen and cooked products – would would be a great asset to Bonner County and our surrounding communities,” Kusche said. He also envisions being able to provide the business coaching resources of the BCEDC as well as Small Business Development Center to help ensure success of startup businesses.
Land for the new kitchen is available at the Bonner County Fairgrounds; Kusche said, if demand warrants, engineering could be completed and construction under taken by spring.
But first, any current or budding food producers should let the organizers know of their interest. Contact any of these: Paul Kusche at 208-265- 6402 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; Dennis Weed, director of the Boundary County Economic Council at 208-267- 0352; or Amy Emmons, Priest River Development Corporation at 208-448- 1312.
City of Sandpoint records show there were more than 30 small companies that utilized the previous commercial kitchen space in the years 2010-2013. Those previous users are being queried, as well as restaurants and chefs that have catered functions at the fairgrounds.