City of Bangor has been awarded $1,010,000 in Funding for Commercial Kitchen Incubator Project
The bills must still be voted upon by the full Senate and House.
A commercial kitchen incubator will grow the business of locally produced agricultural products, create jobs, and develop market opportunities for food production operations throughout northern Maine in a professional, shared-use environment. In addition, it will address a deficiency in the food production infrastructure in Maine - lack of a central kitchen or co-packing facility that can help businesses grow.
Prior to this funding award, the City completed environmental assessment, asbestos removal, and property condition assessment work to determine a scope of work for the full conversion of the property to a commercial kitchen incubator.
Commercial kitchens function similarly to a maker space, except the product is food. People making food to sell out of their homes need to have certified commercial kitchens as they grow out of a home occupation, for example, but this is often a cost-prohibitive investment for small producers. The use of a commercial kitchen gives producers the ability to increase production as a transition between in-home production and factory production. Other users anticipated include caterers, farmers, food trucks, and other aquaculture or agriculture value-added businesses.
There are many small producers in central, eastern, and northern Maine, and the number of producers and acreage devoted to agriculture has increased significantly over the last ten years. Additionally, there are a great number of small-scale food processors and producers in the region that are marginally successful. Often the barrier to scalable growth is the lack of an affordable commercial kitchen facility. Many of these producers must now send their product out of state for production, losing the value-add potential for this region. Establishment of a central kitchen in Bangor would enable producers to increase sales of locally produced food, and allow processors to add value to their products locally, test new products, and create marketing opportunities for Maine farmers. This added value would enable Maine’s food industry to increase sales and satisfy distributor and retailer demands for their finished products.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the market trend of interest in local and regional sustainable food systems. Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for food that is locally sourced and considers environmental impacts. Building capacity for Maine’s local food system is not only a smart economic development strategy, but smart when considering environmental, sustainability, and food safety impacts as well.
The building to be renovated for the “Central Kitchen” is a ±19,172 gross square foot, single-story structure located near the Bangor International Airport. Originally constructed in 1957, it has undergone several renovations. The building was most recently occupied by units of the Maine National Guard. There is an existing kitchen area, although the outdated equipment and appliances were previously removed.
This Kitchen Incubator grant request will primarily fund renovations and improvements to the 2,800 sq. ft. commercial kitchen area of the building, including plumbing, electrical and interior surfaces. It will also outfit the kitchen with modern commercial-grade appliances, commercial equipment and cookware and utensils:
• renovating the existing kitchen space to current food quality standards;
• outfitting the commercial kitchen with modern appliances (e.g. stoves, dishwasher), equipment (e.g. sinks, coolers), and cookware;
• testing and repairing existing plumbing and electrical systems;
• installing a sprinkler system and improving the fire protection and life safety systems;
• installing and converting ADA systems in rest rooms and entryways;
• installation of an air conditioning system;
• installation of a modern, energy efficient lighting system; and
• repairs to the existing oil-fired heating system.
The total cost of the project is $4.3 million. Phase one is $1,009,855 and will allow us to complete the critical kitchen systems and life safety improvements, and we will continue to work on systems and renovations with City capital resources as funding allows, while pursuing additional funding opportunities.