WARREN, R.I., October 3, 2014Hope & Main today celebrated the opening of its 17,500-square-foot culinary business incubator facility in Warren, Rhode Island. U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as well as other honored guests including USDA Director of Community Programs Daniel R. Beaudette, Warren Town Council President Christopher W. Stanley, and Founder and President of Hope & Main, Lisa J. Raiola, MPH.

“Hope & Main is about helping food entrepreneurs get started in a licensed kitchen. Rhode Island is passionate about food and this is a place where you can take locally sourced ingredients, mix them with locally grown talent, and create great products at a reasonable cost. It’s also a place where people can congregate and collaborate, take a class or develop and test new recipes. I am proud to be part of this effort to support start-up food entrepreneurs and help them launch their own food businesses,” said Senator Reed. “This is a great example of what’s possible when federal, state, and local officials collaborate with the private sector to support innovation. Hope & Main is a key ingredient in the recipe for continued growth of Rhode Island’s food economy.”

Housed in the historic Main Street School building, located at 691 Main Street in Warren, the renovation project transformed the 100-year-old structure into a state-of-the-art workspace for the region’s food entrepreneurs. Among the building’s highlights include three code-compliant, shared-use commercial kitchens, including a gluten-free kitchen and artisanal bakery, over 6,000-square-feet of production space, cold and dry storage, and a range of commercial equipment to support small-scale operations for baking, food processing and catering. Designed to facilitate collaboration and community involvement in the local food economy, the rehab also features a demonstration kitchen, co-working and meeting spaces, and a 2,000-square-foot community event space. A weekly market will be located on the grounds to give Hope & Main member companies and other local producers direct access to local consumers.

“I applaud Hope & Main’s staff on their renovation, as well as their efforts to assist local food startups,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Incubators like this can allow entrepreneurs to experiment with new products and strategies that will create jobs and enrich our communities. I look forward to seeing what Hope & Main’s inaugural class of businesses brings to our state’s thriving food culture.”

The Hope & Main project is funded in large part by a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Community Facilities Loan. Hope & Main purchased the building from the Town of Warren in June 2013 after a nearly three-year effort to secure funding for the incubator project and an investment of $250,000 in private funds. TRAC Builders, Inc. in Providence, RI., led general construction of the 12-month renovation project. Eric Busch of Rustpoint Advisory, LLC, in East Greenwich, R.I., has acted as a consultant since 2009.

Hope & Main recently introduced its inaugural group of members, a cohort of more than 30 culinary entrepreneurs who will be growing early-stage food startups and other food-related businesses from the organization’s headquarters. The companies began full production in the newly-renovated facility in September 2014. A variety of businesses will be run from the incubator including specialty food product makers, catering companies, food trucks, farmers, personal chefs and nutritionists.

“Five years ago we had an idea for a building, but we could only imagine who would utilize it,” says Lisa Raiola. “In that time, Hope & Main has evolved into a center of gravity for Rhode Island’s food economy. We have not only created access to business opportunities for food entrepreneurs, we have built an integrated space dedicated to the food value-chain – from growing, to production, to sales. We aim to change the community’s relationship to local food.”

About Hope & Main: Hope & Main helps local entrepreneurs jump-start early-stage food companies and other food-related businesses by providing low-cost, low-risk access to shared-use commercial kitchen space and other industry-specific technical resources. As the state’s first food business incubator, Hope & Main’s nonprofit incubator program gives food startups the chance to grow in their first two to three years without the cost of equipping their own commercial facilities. Members benefit from extensive mentoring, access to fully-equipped and affordable workspace, and immersion in an entrepreneurial environment where they can collaborate with industry experts and peers. Hope & Main’s aim is to create a community of support for food entrepreneurs and to serve as a springboard for the launch and growth of new culinary enterprises.

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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