By Cameron Rasmusson
A heavily utilized commercial kitchen at the former Sandpoint Business Incubator might return if demand still exists.
The Bonner County Economic Development Corporation is seeking community input in re-establishing the commercial kitchen, which was removed from the city business center to make room for biomedical device company Lead-Lok’s expansion. The immediate task is to ensure that entrepreneurial interest in the kitchen still exists.
“If we can demonstrate that there’s a clear need, we already have a site selected and already have the [commercial kitchen] equipment,” said Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad.
As a part of the deal struck with Lead-Lok owner Graphic Controls, Sandpoint officials agreed to let the company occupy its entire business center rather than risk losing the company to another state. That meant evicting all the other tenants of the building, as well as removing the commercial kitchen that additional small businesses relied upon. According to city records, more than 30 businesses used the kitchen between 2010 and 2013.
BCEDC executive director Paul Kusche said the economic development corporation is working with Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency, Bonner County, the Bonner County Fair Board and the city of Sandpoint. The hope is to attract old clients, who made everything from pizza sauce to huckleberry cordials, as well as reach out to new would-be entrepreneurs. The BCEDC also wants to provide business coaching and other resources to new start-ups.
“While I am a strong proponent of the ‘If you build it they will come’ strategy, it is important that we learn the level of demand that might exist today,” said Kusche, himself a veteran of food manufacturing through a career with Litehouse Foods.
If enough interest exists, planners should be able to complete engineering and begin construction at a Bonner County Fairgrounds location by springtime.
“Providing a leasable kitchen facility – one that’s FDA approved and capable of handling refrigerated, frozen and cooked products – would would be a great asset to Bonner County and our surrounding communities,” Kusche said.
Those interested should contact Kusche at 265-6402 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; Dennis Weed, director of the Boundary County Economic Council, at 267-0352; or Amy Emmons, Priest River Development Corporation at 448-1312.