VIROQUA — Susan Noble raised the flag in front of Viroqua’s Food Enterprise Center on Wednesday afternoon to mark the opening of a renovated 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

“Hallelujah,” she said. “We’re back in business.”

A crowd of about 60 business leaders from throughout the Coulee Region attended the grand opening of the facility formerly operated by NCR.

Noble, executive director of the Vernon Economic Development Association, said the loss of 81 jobs when NCR closed in 2009 “was a tremendous blow to our community, but (VEDA) took it as an opportunity and ran with it.”

VEDA put together a multi-million dollar plan to repurpose the NCR plant as the Food Enterprise Center. The financing included $2 million from the Federal Economic Development Administration, a $1.8 million Midwest Disaster Bond and other loans and lines of credit through six area banks.

The manufacturing plant has been remodeled and now has four tenants, Keewaydin Organics, LuSa Organics, Ridgetop Foods and Fifth Season Cooperative. All are involved in either distributing food or producing value-added food products.

Matt Erskine, the acting assistant secretary for economic development for the U.S. Economic Develop-ment Administration, helped Noble raise the flag. He called the center a “cutting-edge project” that will help businesses grow and thrive for many years.

“I challenge you to make this such a success that we will point it out as a shining example of public and private partnership,” Erskine said.

For Noble, the moment was about a vow she made when NCR employees, who were losing their jobs, came to her and asked for help in 2009.

“We dedicate this flag to the former employees of NCR who lost their jobs,” Noble said. “Today is a day to honor those folks.”

The Food Enterprise Center includes a commercial kitchen, and its businesses have plans to add employees. The center has room to add more tenants as it becomes a better-known hub for organic and conventional agricultural products for consumers.

(6) comments

Noryb
Noryb

Gays Mills built a new commercial grade kitchen in their township building for people to rent to make products in a clean facility that could be legally sold. It's a great idea that I think will be utilized by people who make and sell jams, honey, juices, salsas, etc. This articles facility sounds like a bigger version of that but I can't tell because it's not very descriptive. It also seems that re-purposing a building and still costing millions of dollars seems a little crazy. Still, I hope it works out.

Gambrinus
Gambrinus

Noryb, I hadn't heard about the Gays Mills venture. It's kind of neat idea if it was heavily utilized. There is no reason it couldn't be used 24 hours a day but all the overhead and probable dead time raise questions of economic viability. This is a simple enough idea. Wonder why someone in the private sector, a coop for instance, hasn't already addressed this need. Of course, part of this problem was caused by government regulations making everything from lemonade stands to church pot lucks to small batches of jelly to sell to neighbors illegal. As much as I like the idea of the kitchen, i have to check myself for Stockholm syndrome.

Lucenut
Lucenut

Public - Private Partnership = Communism.

Gambrinus
Gambrinus

Also from the fifth season coop page, "In January of 2010, the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) received a $40,000 Buy Local Buy Wisconsin grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP). In partnership with the Food and Farm Initiative of the Valley Stewardship Network, VEDA set to work bringing together key partners in the 7 Rivers Region to develop an economic model that brings local food to institutions. The Fifth Season Cooperative was incorporated in August, 2010 to provide the infrastructure and coordination needed to bridge the gap between producers and buyers in the 7 Rivers Region."

Let's hope that this works out as we have millions of tax dollars tied up in this project.

Napoleon
Napoleon

Public-private partnership? No. Corporate intrusion into government, aka corporate welfare, aka socialism for the rich, aka fascism.

I'm a member of the public... and I'm certainly not considered a partner in these cozy inside deals.

Merger of corporation and state, merger of church and state: dangerous, tyrannical, not the American Way!

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

Redwall
Redwall

No mention of the number of jobs created.

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