Officials move ahead with kitchen incubator

December 27, 2013

By Rosemary Horvath

Home-based chefs can have an entrepreneurial kickstart once a culinary incubator opens in downtown Harrison.

A retail incubator with a community kitchen is being engineered and designed for a vacant building that wraps around the Harrison Public Library with frontage on Main Street and Second Street.

“It was a former Ford garage,” explained Katherine Methner, Clare County director for Middle Michigan Development Corporation and Michigan Works.

“There is so much potential there. The building has neat architectural features such as trusses that look like wagon wheels that we want to save.”

A few years ago, MMDC and the city of Harrison administered a feasibility study to determine if the region could support an incubator. Based on positive results, the group considered transitioning the former Surry House building into an enterprising incubator but a deal fell through.

Since then, USDA awarded the city a $250,000 grant to create a Kitchen and Retail Incubator to assist small rural businesses with their initial product development and sales.

The city already owned the former Ford garage building.

“Our desire is to jump start development in downtown Harrison,” Methner said, adding that a number of support groups in Clare and Isabella counties are involved in the effort.

The plan is to begin construction in the spring. Meanwhile, Methner will seek both private and public funding to assist in the effort.

At the time this groundswell took shape, Methner was employed by the MMDC based in Mount Pleasant though she concentrated on economic development mainly in Clare County.

MMDC re-organized and merged with Michigan Works Region 7B that linked manufacturing and commercial development with building a workforce.

Methner was then named as Clare County director for the two organizations. She is employed by Michigan Works and has an office at its Harrison site.

“Workforce development is assisting people with finding jobs and assisting companies with finding people,” she said.

Her position enables her to build on positive relationships she developed over the years working to retain and expand area companies. And now she can help provide on the job training opportunities when potential employees are found.

“I see a really bright future for Clare County,” Methner added. “I talk with employers all the time and manufacturing employers are experiencing a steady growth and steady job creation. The big players are stable and doing well.”

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