The Consumers Energy Foundation announced a $232,000 grant to launch a regional food processing initiative designed to grow and expand West Michigans substantial agriculture economy.
The West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative will be based in Muskegon and seeks to expand the regions strong agricultural base to include exports beyond Michigan and perhaps as far as Asia.
The foundations contribution is its largest grant ever made in Muskegon County. The grant is the result of more than five years of studies and discussions with local stakeholders surrounding the 2016 closing of Consumers Energys B.C. Cobb Plant, said Dennis Dobbs, the companys vice president of enterprise project management and environmental services.
"We started talking with employees, local businesses and government officials to create a plan that would keep Muskegon on a path of growth, and were thrilled when we landed on this opportunity," Dobbs said today at the food processing initiatives launch event. "We might have closed Cobbs doors, but that did not mean we closed the door on our friends and neighbors along the shoreline. This initiative should help create jobs and generate a ripple effect throughout the local economy."
The initiative is focused on Muskegon and West Michigan for several reasons, including:
- Strategic access to prime fruit and vegetable growers and proximity to other agricultural suppliers;
- Access to underutilized waste water treatment capacity;
- Michigans fresh water capacity;
- Michigans growing renewable energy sector and the ability to market fruits and vegetables produced using renewable energy, and
- Logistic and distribution attributes. Muskegon is home to West Michigans largest commercial deep water port with easy access to rails and highways. Proposed cross-lake shipping provides direct links to western U.S. and Asian markets.
Joining local and regional economic development and business leaders as well as food and agriculture stakeholders at todays kickoff in downtown Muskegon was Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
"Michigans food and agriculture sector already contributes over $100 billion annually to Michigans economy, and their announcement only strengthens its future both locally and well beyond the states borders," Clover Adams said. "Access to Michigans diverse agriculture, our incredible natural resources, a talented workforce and an array of transportation options really put this West Michigan initiative in a great position for success."
In addition to the Consumers Energy Foundation, the initiative is also supported by the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and other regional stakeholdersThe Consumers Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Consumers Energy. It provides funding for a variety of areas including education, community, civic and cultural development, social services, the environment, and emerging issues.
Consumers Energy, Michigans largest energy provider, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of the states 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.