10.15.18

SCHUMER LAUNCHES MAJOR PUSH TO SECURE NEARLY $1 MILLION FED GRANT TO BUILD FIRST-EVER FOOD BUSINESSES INCUBATOR IN ROCHESTER; OVER 150 LOCAL FOOD ENTREPRENEURS ARE NOW ON WAIT LIST, WITH CONSTRUCTION HINGING ON GRANT; PROJECT WOULD SPUR 100 NEW JOBS & ANCHOR DOWNTOWN ROCHESTER REVITALIZATION

All Food Sold Must Be Made In Pricey Commercial Kitchens, Often Preventing New Business From Launching   But “Commissary” Incubator Would Be County’s Only Licensed Shared Commercial Kitchen And Demonstration Kitchen For Start-ups To Market Products, Hold Cooking Events, Classes, And More

Schumer Launches Push To Secure Vital EDA Grant To Build The Commissary; Says The Commissary Would Be A Shot In The Arm For The Rochester-Finger Lakes Economy & Appetites

Schumer To Feds: Rochester Has All The Right Ingredients, It’s Time To Get Cooking

Standing with food entrepreneurs at the Sibley Building in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to secure a nearly $1 million U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant needed in order to build The Commissary Downtown Kitchen Incubator, sought by hundreds of Rochester food entrepreneurs to start and grow new food-based businesses and products. Construction of the $1.6 million project, led by the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC), hinges on securing a federal grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to build and equip the new 30,000 sq ft facility on the first floor of downtown Rochester’s iconic Sibley building. Schumer today called on U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to consider for approval the grant application prepared by the RDDC with support from Schumer’s office and submitted by RDDC to the EDA earlier this month. Currently, the RDDC has a wait list with 152 food entrepreneurs interested in using the Commissary Downtown Kitchen Incubator’s planned facilities and services to start and grow their businesses and to produce new food products for sale. Schumer said that The Commissary would boost the Rochester-area economy by spurring the establishment of numerous start-up packaged food and beverage manufacturing businesses, restaurants, bakeries, caterers, food truck operators, and other food-related businesses by reducing the otherwise high cost of creating a licensed commercial kitchen.  It will also house a demonstration kitchen where start-ups can market or sell their products to the public, hold food events and cooking classes, and will provide mentoring, training, and business support services to entrepreneurs to help their fledgling businesses take root and succeed. 

“Hundreds of new food-based Rochester businesses that could be creating jobs now are instead stuck on the back burner. That’s why today I am announcing my push to secure the nearly $1 million federal grant needed to build the first-ever food business incubator in Rochester. The Commissary Kitchen Incubator is Rochester’s recipe to serve up new jobs and new businesses, while creating a destination to bring visitors, diners, and more to revitalize downtown,” said Senator Schumer. “By eliminating the enormous cost of building a commercial kitchen and offering incubation and business support services, The Commissary will provide entrepreneurs with a much-needed pathway to establish or grow packaged food businesses, restaurants, bakeries, catering companies, and more. So today my message to the Feds is simple: help us cook up something special in Rochester by making the Commissary Kitchen Incubator a reality.”

Schumer said that currently, one major barrier of entry for potential restaurant and food-related business owners is the exceedingly high cost of building a commercial kitchen. It is illegal to sell food or food products unless they are prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen. Schumer said that building a kitchen can cost up to $100,000, which is often times untenable for prospective restauranteurs and chefs. Additionally, a food truck can cost up to $50,000. This cost is compounded by the fact that due to public health and safety concerns, in many counties, including Monroe County, it is illegal to share a kitchen. Without aspiring food entrepreneurs able to share costs with one another, Schumer said it is less likely that they would be able to afford their own commercial kitchen and start their business without amassing serious debt. However, Schumer said that The Commissary, as an “Incubator Kitchen,” has been permitted to operate as Monroe County’s only shared commercial kitchen, which means it will be in compliance with local public health law and cleared for use by multiple users. Therefore, Schumer explained that The Commissary would eliminate the necessity of building an expensive commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs opening food businesses and restaurants, and boost the Rochester-area economy as a result.

According to RDDC within its first year of operation, The Commissary anticipates supporting the indirect creation and growth of thirty food businesses and sixty jobs, and fifty food businesses and one hundred jobs by its third year. Additionally, Schumer noted that the project has ample support from the local business community and local officials.

Schumer said the EDA grant will fund the construction of The Commissary within an existing vacant 30,000 sq ft space on the first floor of Rochester’s iconic Sibley building. Specifically, funding would be used to construct a shared commercial kitchen with fourteen kitchen workstations equipped with commercial-grade cooking equipment. Food entrepreneurs will be able to rent a kitchen station for as little as four hours at a time to produce their food products. Shared-use dry and cold storage areas will also be constructed for food entrepreneurs to use to prepare fresh or packaged products for sale. Schumer said that The Commissary would help prepare aspiring entrepreneurs for their careers as business-owners by offering mentoring support, workshops, and training in addition to the kitchen space. Lastly, funding will be used to construct a demonstration show kitchen where start-ups can market or sell their products to the public, hold food events, or host cooking classes. As they grow, the entrepreneurs will also have priority access to open a retail kiosk space in the Food Hall which is now being developed adjacent to The Commissary on the first floor of the Sibley Building. The demonstration show kitchen and Food Hall will create a street-level destination for downtown workers, visitors and residents to vitalize downtown. Schumer stated that The Commissary would be the first kitchen incubator in New York State outside of New York City, and called on the EDA to support the RDDC’s grant application, citing not only its ability to create jobs but also it’ ability to help revitalize downtown Rochester.  

Rochester Downtown Development Corporation President Heidi Zimmer-Meyer said, “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate Senator Schumer’s assistance and support in helping us to build The Commissary in downtown Rochester.  Over 150 local food entrepreneurs have already indicated interest in The Commissary’s shared kitchen and incubation services to start, grow or legalize their businesses. We believe this new facility will be transformative in creating pathways to prosperity, boosting jobs, and bringing real street-level vitality to downtown.”

Schumer explained that The Commissary would not only be a launching pad to grow new businesses, but it would also be a key anchor in the revitalization of downtown Rochester by creating new street-level activity along the City’s Main Street Corridor. Physically, The Commissary will be located in the heart of Rochester’s new Downtown Innovation Zone, which is aimed at bolstering Main Street and Downtown Rochester into a hub for new high tech, business and entrepreneurial activities alongside new mixed-use developments with places to live, shop, eat, do business and more.

Schumer has successfully secured prior EDA grants used to construct new downtown job-creating projects including a $1.5 million EDA grant to build the Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE), a $2.6 million EDA grant to build the NextCorps (formerly High Tech of Rochester) Accelerator on Sibley’s 5th and 6th Floors, and a $2 million EDA grant to construct the Midtown Rising site, which is now home to new businesses and commercial development. Additionally, in 2015, Schumer helped secure $42.5 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits that were needed to greenlight the multi-phase $200 million redevelopment of the Sibley Building. Securing the federal NMTC funds was the final piece of the puzzle needed in order for the Sibley Building developers, WinnDevelopment, to start construction on the first $110 million in renovations on-schedule, and ultimately to move forward on the complete multi-phase, job-creating $200 million Sibley redevelopment plan and setting the state for job-creating development like The Commissary. 

Schumer was joined by Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC) President Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, RDDC Vice President Laura Fox O’Sullivan, and current and prospective food entrepreneurs looking to use the Commissary Kitchen Incubator: Brighid O’Keane, Visnja Clayton, and Embola Ekille.

Below is a copy of Senator Schumer’s letter sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross:

I write to express my strong support for Rochester Downtown Development Corporation’s (RDDC) grant application to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to construct and equip The Commissary: Downtown Kitchen Incubator in the City of Rochester. 

The Commissary Downtown Kitchen Incubator would enable existing and start-up entrepreneurs to launch new food-based businesses in downtown Rochester.  Together with wrap-around incubation and business support services, the Commissary will provide a pathway to establish and grow new local businesses by solving one of the biggest impediments to creating a successful food start-up: the high cost of creating a licensed commercial kitchen.  Food businesses and restaurants experience a very high failure rate often related to the high cost of creating a commercial kitchen, which increases the debt load significantly for fledgling restaurant and food businesses.

The Commissary would feature a shared commercial kitchen with fourteen kitchen stations, one show kitchen, and shared-use dry and cold storage areas available to food entrepreneurs to use to prepare products for sale.  In addition, the Commissary Incubator will provide tenants with specific expertise in the food industry which many of Rochester’s existing entrepreneurial support services lack.  Within the first year of operation, the Commissary anticipates supporting the indirect creation and growth of thirty food businesses and 60 jobs and fifty food businesses and 100 jobs in its third year.  

Additionally the Commissary: Downtown Kitchen Incubator will not only be a launching pad to grow new businesses but it will be a key anchor in the revitalization of downtown Rochester by creating new street-level activity along the City’s Main Street Corridor.  Physically, the Commissary will be located in the heart of Rochester’s new Downtown Innovation Zone which is aimed at bolstering Main Street and Downtown Rochester into a hub for new high tech, business, and entrepreneurial activities alongside new mixed-use developments with places to live, shop, eat, do business and more.  The EDA, in fact, has been a vital partner in setting the stage for the creation and future success of the Innovation Zone through past grant awards make to projects located in the Innovation Zone including the Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) and the Midtown Rising site which is now home to new businesses and commercial development, and the NextCorps (formerly High Tech of Rochester) Accelerator.  EDA’s support now of the Commissary will not only leverage these earlier EDA investments but provide the impetus to push Rochester’s economic and downtown development results to even new heights.

I strongly recommend this project for EDA funding and appreciate your consideration.

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