In 2017, the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development, through a non-profit, Economic Incubators Inc., will open a 5,274-square-foot state-of-the-art culinary kitchen – the Florida Culinary Accelerator @Immokalee – that will offer shared-use food processing space for a broad array of hot and cold products, produce, sauces, baked goods, juices and beverages. A micro-market, Woodstock’s Market, at the Naples Accelerator, off Pine Ridge Road, will enable culinary accelerator participants to showcase and sell their products. The University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research & Education Center in Immokalee (IFAS) also will provide a food testing lab.
The accelerator, planned for a renovated warehouse at Immokalee Regional Airport, will be designed for use by farmers and cooperatives, start-up food companies and home-kitchen chef entrepreneurs. However, it also will be available to mid-size food companies, retail and food service companies and commercial users. Future phases will include an alcohol-distillation machine and an HPP machine, a hyperbaric non-heated pressurization process that will keep food, produce and juices fresher and safer for longer periods.
Immokalee, the second poorest municipality in Florida, was chosen as the location because it’s Collier County’s agricultural center. Immokalee is a federal Promise Zone – one of 22 high poverty areas nationally – and Collier County has been named a StrikeForce County, a USDA program that brings economic opportunities to high-poverty rural communities by helping leverage their assets.
The locavore movement is growing nationwide and Immokalee is poised to grow its brand, Made @Immokalee. Local farmers and chef entrepreneurs often struggle to produce goods that require a certified commercial kitchen because they’re expensive to establish and maintain. But studies show shared commercial kitchens, such as the Florida Culinary Accelerator @ Immokalee, have positive impacts on the economy because all facets are affected – farmers, suppliers, marketers, printers, packagers, buyers, consumers and more.
The culinary accelerator will meet the regulatory standards of local, state, and federal (FDA and USDA) agencies and its 18-month program will provide culinary and agribusiness entrepreneurs with culinary classes, financial and marketing help, food certifications, and other programs and services needed to give chef entrepreneurs a jump start in a competitive market. So far, we've spoken to celebrity chef Art Smith and Michelin-rated Christian Le Squer of Paris about becoming mentors and helping host fundraisers.
We hope the accelerator will be a true catalyst for Immokalee by helping local and Collier County residents, iTECH culinary arts students and other small business owners to start or grow their food-related businesses.
If you're interested in being a participant, please take our user-needs survey, which is available in English, Spanish and Creole. We'd love to hear what your culinary needs are.
Need more information?
Contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org 239-249-5911, or call toll free, 855-949-5911. To speak with the director of our program, Dr. Marshall Goodman, email him at: Marshall@NaplesAccelerator.com