River Valley Food Venture
of new commercial kitchen
to help get products to market
(October 2005) The new Ohio River Valley Food Venture has
given entrepreneurs like Theresa Long and Kathy Anderson a chance to
start a catering business after having prepared and served informally
the past two years at the Hanover Park.
by Don Ward
Gov. Becky Skillman, left, greets
Southeast Indiana SBDC director Linda Wood during the Sept. 23
With the Sept. 23 opening of the commercial kitchen, however,
the two Hanover residents plan to expand into full-service catering
under the name Cookins My Bag. The women prepared garlic bread
for the grand opening luncheon, which featured lasagna and salad, and
helped escort guests on tours through the kitchen.
Im a singer and a hair stylist, and Kathy is a caregiver,
but this is something weve always wanted to do, said Long,
the lead singer in the local band Tad Long. The help we will get
from this facility will make it a lot easier to get started.
Madison Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation officials and the Small
Business Development Center unveiled the new Food Venture with a luncheon
attended by Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who helped cut a loaf of
bread (instead of a ribbon).
Skillman and state and local officials and guests were treated to a
meal prepared in the new commercial kitchen, then toured the 5,200-square-foot
facility, which is located inside the Venture Out Business Center, 975
Industrial Dr. The building is also home to the chamber and other offices.
Following the luncheon, the facility was open to the public throughout
I visited here about a year ago and heard about the project, and
Im thrilled to come back today and hear the early successes and
congratulate you all first hand, said Skillman.
by Don Ward
Richard Mezoff gives
a tour at Food Venture.
Food Venture is a commercial kitchen that will allow entrepreneurs
in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and other states to rent an FDA-certified
facility for food processing. In addition to the state-of-the-art kitchen
equipment, valued at more than $500,000, Food Venture has experienced
staff to help clients in all aspects of developing their products and
Skillman noted the past reliance on tobacco in Jefferson County and
how this venture could help farmers turn other crops into viable products.
She also noted the nations recent emphasis on healthy and nutritious
foods, especially with the obesity problems that weve been
The Food Venture project for Madison was conceived nearly four years
ago by three people: Linda Wood, the Southeast Indiana Small Business
Development Center regional director; Jerry Hay, the USDA Rural Development
official; and Connie Combs, who at the time served as president of the
Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. All three attended the grand opening
and were praised for their determination to see the project through
by Don Ward
Gov. Becky Skillman cuts the bread
Sept. 23 to officially open the
Food Venture commercial kitchen.
Wood said $1 million had been raised over the past four
years from various federal and state grants to fund the construction
of the facility. They also collected ideas from other commercial kitchens
operating around the country. She credited the partnership of various
government entities to make it happen, including the USDA Rural Development,
Indiana Rural Development Council, Indiana Economic Development Corp,
the City of Madison and many others.
The facility rents space by the hour to entrepreneurs, who will be assisted
in various aspects of running a business. The four staff advisors are
Richard Mezoff, who was recently hired as kitchen manager, Bill Cord,
Andy Sons and Katrina Griffin of Connorsville. Cord and Sons have served
on the SBDC staff, but Mezoff, a Boston native, in July moved to Madison
from Seattle to take over his new position.
While the concept of a shared-use commercial food processing facility
is new to Madison, Mezoff is not new to the field. Since 1996 he has
produced a line of sauces, salsa and rubs under the brand name Big
Mama Mezoffs in a kitchen incubator environment in Spokane,
Wash. For two years he ran his own restaurant as well. He has a wealth
of knowledge about turning locally grown agricultural products into
high-quality processed foods, Wood said.
by Don Ward
Long and Kathy Anderson
hope to start their catering business
by using the new kitchen.
Wood and Debbie Bishop-Trocha, executive director of the
statewide Indiana SBDC, used the occasion to also mark the 20-year anniversary
of the SBDC in Indiana. Trocha said the the program actually started
25 years ago as a pilot program at eight universities, but Congress
in 1980 passed legislation to create the SBDC program, and SBDCs now
operate in all 50 states and U.S. territories. In all, there are more
than 1,100 centers in the country employing 5,000 professionals.
Many people think the SBDC primarily works with new business owners,
but Trocha said nearly 75 percent of their time is devoted to helping
Trocha later presented Wood with a plaque for all her hard work in guiding
the Food Venture project.
The SBDC has done an outstanding job here, and I dont think
people realize all the work they do, said Madison Mayor Al Huntington.
This project is expected to create jobs and new businesses, and
we are very happy to have it here in Madison.
Anyone interested in learning more about the new facility
are urged to call Mezoff at (812) 574-4061 or visit the new website
Another open house is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 18. Public is invited.
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