Over the past decade, food business incubators in Massachusetts have served as valuable resources to encourage the startup and success of food enterprises in this growing industry. Incubators have supported a range of food businesses, including food trucks, caterers, and specialty food producers. Offering shared-use kitchen rental and business technical assistance services, food business incubators provide entrepreneurs with resources and services at reasonable rates in a collaborative environment. Doing so decreases the risks and capital requirements that typically come with establishing businesses independently, giving them a greater chance of success.
By fostering business growth, food business incubators support a range of businesses that can create jobs and benefit the local economy. With a significant number of start-ups committed to providing additional social benefits, food business incubators often also have a hand in supporting businesses that are improving food access, supporting farms and the fishing industry through sourcing local ingredients, and employing practices that are environmentally sustainable. They also contribute to community wealth-building, providing advancement for residents who otherwise lack opportunities.
As the food manufacturing industry continues to grow, incubators can play an important role in supporting project development and growth. Often established as nonprofit enterprises, and supporting businesses that are considered ‘high-risk’ with small profit margins, the sustainability and success of food business incubators is reliant upon additional investment. Public funding commitments and private investment will help ensure that ongoing efforts continue and new incubators can develop to meet food enterprise needs.
Recommendation 5.1: Research food processing capacity and demand for food business incubators.
Action 5.1.1: Inventory the capacity of existing food business incubators in Massachusetts to provide food storage, freezing, preparation, and distribution.
Action 5.1.2: Determine feasibility of expanding food business incubation through the use of existing commercial kitchen infrastructure.
Recommendation 5.2: Invest in food processing infrastructure to support food business incubation models.
Action 5.2.1: Fund strategic planning for food business incubator development.
Action 5.2.2: Identify public and private financing sources for food processing infrastructure and equipment for food business incubator development.
Recommendation 5.3: Develop financing and business support resources for food processing businesses working in incubators.
Action 5.3.1: Increase business development training in conjunction with financing options. Support ongoing efforts by community development corporations, The Carrot Project, Sustainable Business Alliance, Interise, the Salem Enterprise Center, and others.
Action 5.3.2: Facilitate awareness and delivery of subsidies and tax credits to food processing businesses that create jobs and/or buy local ingredients.
Action 5.3.3: Make seed funding available for food business start-ups that have a complete business concept and plan. Funding could be in the form of a revolving loan fund or grant funding.
Action 5.3.4: Educate about and promote alternative financing strategies such as royalty and contract financing.
Action 5.3.5: Develop new financing models that limit the risk burden for entrepreneurs who are committed to sourcing ingredients from local farms and minimizing environmental impact.
Action 5.3.6: Fund food processing businesses in growing industries.
Action 5.3.7: Establish revolving loan models that enable purchase of food processing equipment.
Action 5.3.8: Establish a lending library for processing equipment between shared use kitchens.
Action 5.3.9: Develop resources to assist food processing businesses during the transition from incubator-based to independently-operating businesses.
Action 5.3.10: Promote collaborative or co-owned processing facilities for farmers, fishermen and food processors where there is an identified need for such facilities and models.