The Detroit food industry is getting a much-needed boost thanks to a grant and funding announcement from Charter One in partnership with Eastern Market Corporation and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
Thirty food-related businesses are being awarded grants totaling $100,000 through Charter One’s Growing Communities program to help them grow, expand and hire people. The hope is the already fairly-successful entrepreneurs will become even more successful and continue to add to the overall economic recovery of the region.
“We want to help make Motown a thriving Growtown,” said Ken Marblestone, president of Charter One and RBS Citizens in Michigan and Ohio. “Our goal, with great partners like Eastern Market and MEDC is to diversify and groom Detroit’s economy.”
The Growing Communities program is an urban development initiative that focuses on creating jobs and hopefully reinvigorating neighborhoods by leveraging the state’s growing agricultural industry. The funds are being distributed to the local businesses through Eastern Market.
The program grants are being awarded in three focus areas: Land to transform vacant city lots into urban farms, financing for equipment needed for operating a business and needed signage and displays to help promote the businesses.
Jijung of Living Zen Organics says he and his partners have been in business for six years and they are grateful for the grant from Charter One. “This grant will help us expand what we are doing. We plan to purchase a new dehydrator to process more product,” said Jijung. Living Zen Organics makes kale chips, available in area health food stores.
The $100,000, made up of Charter One and MEDC funds, is part of more than $300,000 in grants and incentives distributed through the Growing Communities program over the last two years.
“We are rewarding hard work and good ideas here,” said Mike Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC. “Sometimes, all it takes is a helping hand to pull a small business into a larger arena. We are trying to grow jobs by encouraging companies that contribute to the food economy.”
The grants will be given to and administered by Eastern Market Corporation, the non profit that manages the popular Eastern Market in Detroit. “Michigan is second in the nation in agricultural diversity with more than 300 commodities in the state,” added Dan Carmody, President of Eastern Market Corporation. “Growing the local food sector means more jobs and more nutritious food for Detroit dinner tables.”
Eastern Market will also benefit from the funding, getting a boost to keep it a fixture in the community, as it continues into its second century in existence.
Ruth Bell and Robert Mitchell run Chugga’s Bakery in Detroit. As grant recipients, they also hope to grow their business, which currently operated out of a shared lease space. “We are going to purchase our own equipment which will mean we can take on some larger clients and eventually move into our own location,” said Bell.
Speaking to several of the entrepreneurs, they all have big hopes for the future and see these funds as key to their growth and viability.
Delphine Drake of D&V Jamaican Seasoning plans to use the money to purchase a mixer that will help her expand the reach for her authentic Jamaican seasonings, which are available in several locations across the metro area including Westborn Market, Market Fresh and Johnny Pomodoro’s. “This funding is important for me. With this additional help, I can grow, hire people and get my own building.”
Charter One’s Marblestone is optimistic, but realistic about the impact of the funding on metro Detroit. “We are committed to Detroit for the long haul. I know this won’t solve all of the city’s problems, but it will help move it forward.”
Here are the 30 Growing Communities grant winners:
Beautiful Soup, LLC (Equipment)
Beignets, LLC (Equipment)
Chugga’s Main Street Bakery (Equipment)
Cultivation Station (Equipment)
D&V Jamaican Seasonings (Equipment)
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network/D-Town Farms (Equipment)
Detroit Garlic Connection (Land)
Detroit Merchantile (Equipment)
Detroit Zen Center (Living Zen Organics) (Equipment)
Dirty Sabot (Equipment)
Drought Juice (Equipment)
Ethel’s Edibles (Equipment)
FD Lofts (Equipment)
Give and Grow Mushrooms (Equipment)
Granola Tree (Equipment)
Green Leaf Turkey (Equipment)
Holy Canoli (Equipment)
Jean’s, LLC (Land)
Malcolm Tradition (Signage and Display)
McClure’s Pickles (Equipment)
Nikki’s Ginger Tea (Signage and Display)
Oakland Avenue Market Garden (Equipment)
Occupy Yourself Agricultural Academy (Equipment)
Rightfully Raw (Equipment)
Sala Thai (Equipment)
Sea Fare Foods, Inc. (Equipment)
SeedsGROW Market Garden/ Genesis Hope CDC (signage and display)
Slow Jams, LLC (Equipment)
StrEat Eat (Equipment)
Verace Pasta e Olio (Equipment)
Black jacket Jungshin (Jason Edgil)
Blue shirt jijung (Andrey Douthard)
Check shirt Hyangjin (John Sterritt)