The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development recently voted to approve $400,000 in Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants for five projects in Michigan.
The projects, which stretch from the Upper Peninsula south to Macomb County, will accelerate growth and create jobs by increasing capacity, implementing new technology and improving efficiency.
“Once again, the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants are fueling business growth and job creation from one corner of our state to the other,” said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). “Not only that, but the support and attention these businesses receive from the grants also helps shed light on the diversity of Michigan’s food and ag industry, as well as the wide variety of job opportunities it offers Michiganders.”
The following five companies received a grant:
1. Northern Hardwoods Lumber LLC. Northern Hardwoods Lumber LLC of Atlantic Mine will receive a $100,000 performance-based grant to support the asset purchase and expansion of an underutilized kiln-drying lumber facility in Newberry. Northern Hardwoods Lumber LLC is a subsidiary of J.M. Longyear LLC, a long-standing forest products company in Michigan.
This project will require a $3.1 million investment and will lead to the creation of 15 jobs. The facility will provide the only value-added kiln-drying facility for the eastern Upper Peninsula hardwood green lumber mills and will serve as a value-added outlet for mills in the northern Lower Peninsula. Once complete and fully operational, the project is expected to boost annual production capacity by 20 percent to nearly 8.5 million board feet per year.
2. Michigan Turkey Producers LLC. Michigan Turkey Producers LLC of Grand Rapids will receive a $125,000 performance-based grant to support the installation of new machinery and equipment at its processing facility in Wyoming, Mich. The project will require a $13.1 million investment for equipment and supporting work that will automate the deboning process to increase efficiencies and food safety interventions.
The investment will allow the company to increase production capacity, as well as the utilization of the existing workforce at the facility. Michigan Turkey is a grower-owned processor that has operated in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. It operates 55 farms and two processing facilities in west Michigan, allowing for the processing of 20,000 turkeys daily.
3. True Blue Processing Inc. True Blue Processing Inc. of Grand Junction will receive a $50,000 performance-based grant for the purchase of new machinery and equipment that will enhance its processing capacity of fresh blueberries. The company will invest $226,500, and the project will lead to the creation of 23 full-time, seasonal jobs.
The project will allow True Blue Farms — a grower, processor and marketer of blueberries — to increase efficiencies and reduce reliance on hand-harvesting labor. The company farms more than 1,200 acres and buys blueberries from more than 55 growers, leading to the processing of 8 million pounds of fresh blueberries and 10 million pounds of frozen blueberries per season.
4. Dave’s Sweet Tooth LLC. Dave’s Sweet Tooth LLC of Harrison Township will receive a $50,000 performance-based grant to support facility upgrades and new packaging equipment that will allow for a more streamlined production process. The company will invest about $230,000 and create five new jobs at its existing facility. The project will allow Dave’s Sweet Tooth to increase production capacity to meet growing demand and to increase its purchase of Michigan-sourced products such as sugar, cherries and bourbon.
Dave’s Sweet Tooth was founded in 2011 in a home kitchen and now manufactures and distributes a variety of high-quality almond toffee products that are sold mainly in grocery retailers such as Whole Foods, Meijer and Kroger.
5. Berrybrook Enterprises. Berrybrook Enterprises of Dowagiac will receive a $75,000 performance-based grant for the construction of a controlled-atmosphere apple storage facility in Hartford. The new 18,816-square-foot facility will have a capacity to hold 135,000 bushels of apples and will provide a local storage option for fruit growers in southwest Michigan. The project will require an investment of $1.6 million and will lead to the creation of two jobs.
Once completed, the facility will provide local storage for growers allowing them to provide locally grown apples to processors into the summer while saving growers money on transportation costs. Berrybrook Enterprises was started in 1992 by three brothers who built on the success of their parents’ farm, Berrybrook Farms.
“Accelerating the growth of these companies will provide more value-added opportunities for products that are grown, produced and managed right here in Michigan,” says Peter Anastor, director of MDARD’s Agriculture Development Division. “Not only will these food and agriculture projects bring investment and job opportunities to all corners of Michigan, they will also make these companies more competitive due to increased automation and efficiency.”
The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for food and agriculture projects that help expand food and agriculture processing to enable growth in the industry and Michigan’s economy. Projects are selected based on their effect on the agriculture industry and their effect on food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.
For information about MDARD’s grant programs and funding opportunities, visit michigan.gov/mdardgrants.