City - News

Posted on: December 22, 2016

Commercial Kitchen will bring Opportunity to Central Fort Myers

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A 5,000 square foot commercial kitchen is on its way to the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center (SWFEC) in Fort Myers. On Dec. 5, Fort Myers City Council unanimously voted to approve a $100,000 community development block grant to the SWFEC for the kitchen.

The commercial kitchen will occupy 3 bays at the Enterprise Center on Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. The original design for the kitchen was made by Beltram, a Fort Myers commercial kitchen supplier.

“Our commercial kitchen model combines a number of priorities for our community,” explains Mike Love, SWFEC director. “It provides education, job creation and a healthy food initiative. The kitchen will also stimulate small business growth and help sustain existing businesses in our area.”

The University of Florida/IFAS extension, Heathy Harvest Community Farms and the I Will Mentorship Foundation will be partners in the kitchen project, providing education and training services. These programs include food service certifications, business start-up seminars, Free SNAP participant classes on healthy eating, and a host of culinary arts programming. A line of organic produce products will be available to consumers, restaurants, and non-profit organizations through these partnerships.

Education and job training is just one component of the new kitchen project. It will also nurture existing small businesses that will be able to take advantage of the facility. These businesses will have access to top-rate equipment and professional counseling from local experts. In turn, that will allow them to expand their production capabilities at dramatically reduced costs.

“The planned commercial kitchen represents a huge opportunity for small businesses like mine, states Joe Pearson of Healthy Harvest and Farmer Joe’s Organica Foods. “The kitchen enables us to scale without the high cost of securing our own certified commercial kitchen.”

The kitchen design is currently being re-configured through a partnership with Keiser University to ensure the facility has the requisite equipment and layout to meet the needs of the business community and the high standards of a top culinary arts program. Chef Michael Moench, Keiser University’s Dean of Culinary Arts is playing a significant role in the overall design.

Potential partners that would like to donate to the project are encouraged to contact SWFEC Director Mike Love at 239-321-7085 or via email at mlove@cityftmyers.com.

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