In late summer 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 our 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.
Our culinary accelerator will enable local chef entrepreneurs and food businesses to save on the high costs of commercial-grade equipment and pay-as-you-go kitchens that often restrict their ability to start or expand their food businesses. Our 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, business, technical, marketing and food certification help, and other programs and services that are needed to give chef entrepreneurs a jump start in a competitive market.
We'll provide all the amenities and necessary licensing to help our participants overcome the challenges of complying with strict local, state and federal food safety regulations while also ensuring safer products for consumers. We'll also provide the possibility of access to venture funds so our members can see their culinary creations become a reality — and their food businesses expand and succeed.
So far, three-star Michelin-rated French Chef Christian Le Squer of Paris has signed a contract to work with our accelerator to help with a fundraiser dinner, judge an international competition to be mentored by Le Squer, who will mentor that chef in Immokalee and in Paris to create a product that will be solely made at the accelerator and marketed by Woodstock's Market. We're also negotiating with celebrity chef Art Smith about partnering with us, and several local chefs also have expressed interest in helping out.
We hope the accelerator will be a true catalyst for Immokalee by helping local and Collier County residents, iTECH culinary arts students, the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County's Blue CanTEEN culinary program and chef entrepreneurs and food 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. To join, members are required to have a business plan.
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