After a series of COVID-related delays and travel restrictions, the KRNLS and Plaka and Associate’s team representatives, Courtney Zaugg and Olga Pogoda were finally able to conduct a site visit to Magic Valley, hosted by Jeff McCurdy, President and CEO of Region IV Development.
A total of 3 sites have been selected for this project including the Cafe Site in Jerome, the CSI campus in Twin Falls, and 4th and Hanson in Downtown. Below is a summary each site visit with key takeaways.
Cafe Site: The meeting was led by Larry Hall, Executive Director of Jerome 20/20, Jennie Hall, Steering Committee member and Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at University of Idaho, and Arlen Crouch, a local entrepreneur and Cafe Site land owner. The site is located about 12 minutes outside of Twin Falls and about 10 minutes from Downtown Jerome. While the surrounding area is still rural, there is proximity to two hotels, a gas station with a food market inside, and a hospital and therapeutic office are already in full operation. Plans for a larger hospital facility and a business park are underway. Larry Hall led a tour of Jerome following the meeting touting some of the local dairy processors, logistics companies and new housing developments.
Partnerships would need to be developed for this site to be sustainable. Possible partners include University of Idaho, CSI, Dairy West, AgriBeef, Barebeans, and all the dairy manufacturing and logistics companies located in Jerome.
The site itself has quite a bit of potential. The ground has been remediated and is ready for construction. University of Idaho's Discovery Center which will be colocated on the same lot would be an excellent anchor partner and provide needed workforce. With the business park across the highway in development brings many opportunities for partnerships outside of just food innovation. In addition, the Cafe Site has great highway access with over 80,000 cars driving nearby daily. There are also quite a few challenges to this location. Being of a more rural nature, there are few amenities nearby. In addition, the Discovery Center and the business park would not be opened until 2023 meaning that the Food Innovation Center and Business Incubator would be the only attraction for a minimum of a year.
Interesting Takeaway: Because the Cafe Site is in a rural location, it is possible obtain a loan from the USDA for startup funding for the Food Innovation Center.
CSI Campus: At CSI, the team was hosted by Dr. Dean Fisher, President of CSI, Dr. Todd Schwarz, Provost of CSI, and Spencer Cutler, of CSI. The selected site is on the corner of Washington and College. With a total of 6 acres, there is plenty of room for a 3 story building as well as parking. Much of the needed equipment already exists on the CSI campus meaning that it could be used at the Food Innovation Center during consolidation. Partnership with CSI would include sharing of classroom space and equipment.
This site is a great location facing one of the largest arterial roads in Twin Falls. Nearing the site are many restaurants, coffee shops, and a Walmart. In addition, housing is readily available nearby making this site attractive to entrepreneurs moving in to Magic Valley. The partnership with CSI would allow the Food Innovation Center to serve the local community by providing education and workforce development. Space and equipment sharing would allow the Food Innovation Center to run on a leaner budget through sharing expenses with CSI. In partnership with University of Idaho, CSI already offers an entrepreneurship program that could easily be extended to the Food Innovation Center.
While the partnership with CSI is excellent for community development, it is also a challange to entrepreneurship and pure innovation. Examples from around the country have shown that classroom space and equipment sharing doesn't promote entrepreneurship. Startups need very specific conditions to succeed and access to equipment at all times, especially if entrepreneurs will be recruited from outside of state. Having limited hours of access would be a disservice to participating companies.
Interesting Takeaway: CSI has also offered a land lease in form of partnership at market rate.
CSI Washington & College Site
CSI Washington & College Site
Downtown: The downtown meeting included Nathan Murray, Director of Economic Development and Urban Renewal and Travis Rothweiler, City Manager of City of Twin Falls and Connie Stopher, Executive Director of Southern Idaho Economic Development. Because the first choice building downtown is considered a historic building in the warehouse district, the City of Twin Falls team was quick to provide us with 3 other options for possible locations. Funding options were discussed with the city including the use of Urban Redevelopment Area funds and Opportunity Funds.
Although the exact site for downtown has not been determined, it is evident that with partnerships with Chobani, Dairy West, and the City of Twin Falls, this location can be easily sustainable. Considering the great efforts made by the city to reinvigorate downtown, the incredible walkability, and the new multi-family housing construction, this would be a great general location for attracting talent. New restaurants, coffee shops, and after-work-fun amenities are in plenty within walking distance.
While downtown is a prime location, no building or lot has been decided as feasible. Because this site is not located on a campus the partnerships with CSI and University of Idaho would not be as strong in contrast to other locations.
Interesting Takeaway: The entirety of Downtown Twin Falls is an Opportunity Zone.
164 3rd Ave S
143 4th Ave W
139 3rd Ave S
4th and Hanson
In addition to the site visits, zoom calls were arranged with the EDA.
EDA: Carleen Herring acts as the Economic Development Representative at U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. Carleen confirmed that EDA would match 80% of needed funding in downtown as opposed to 50% funding at the Cafe Site or CSI. She advised that the Food Innovation Center should be organized as or controlled by a c3 or c4. This same c3 or c4 must also purchase both the land and building, however, the operating costs of the organization cannot be covered with this funding.
Overall, this was quite a successful visit. Following action items include developing a business plan, confirming partnerships, and creating a financial pro forma. A more detailed site analysis will be provided in the final report.