Along with California, Michigan is one of the most diverse agriculture states that produces an abundance of fruits, vegetables and wheat, which gives it a natural advantage for food manufacturing in the center of the country.

To leverage its agriculture base, the state legislature in 2018 created the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund that’s focused on accelerating growth of food processors and producers.

“Today, we’ve done more than 50 projects with a focus of helping our companies automate or add a new line and take these steps to grow and essentially use more Michigan agriculture products,” said Peter Anastor, director, agriculture development, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). “It’s a tool that’s having an impact as we look at site selection and the company’s growth here”

In conjunction with the Michigan Development Economic Corp., MDARD puts a lot of focus on having shovel-ready sites and preparing communities to leverage those new business opportunities and location to its agriculture core market.

Additionally, Mr. Anastor said, the investment fund targets accelerating growth around equipment, especially with manufacturers searching for ways to automate because of labor competition.

“We’ve given a lot of grants that help companies buy equipment and automate their process or a piece of their process,” he noted. “We’ve done a lot of packaging lines and filling equipment.”

To assist business expansion, Mr. Anastor pointed to Michigan State University’s agriculture and food research and partnerships with industry to identify available job candidates and create non-government-run training and apprentice programs.

“Once these workers get trained, the companies already have touchpoints to them to more easily bring them on board,” he said.

Additionally, short-term certification programs allow potential workers to ramp up basic skills at community colleges without a two- or four-year degree.

In addition to dairy, the bakery, confectionery and savory snacks industries are the fund’s top targets.

“We’re a state that values those types of jobs and having that with this new incentive toolbox and the sites available along with workforce programs, it’s a great combination of things that we have going in Michigan that really help companies succeed here,” Mr. Anastor said.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on site selection, click here.