Last February, the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) asked our Co-op to include our pilot Local Vendor Loan Fund and a letter of support in their proposal to the US Department of Commerce for the greater Madison area to become a designated manufacturing community under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Program (IMCP). It is our pleasure to report that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has accepted MadREP’s proposal and our region is now one of 12 communities that received such designations this year (more than 70 communities applied in the second round of applications).
What is the IMCP?
According to the EDA, the IMCP Program is a federal initiative that encourages communities to “develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturer and supply chain investments.” On July 8th, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared the 12 new designations (now totalling 24 nationwide), which were selected based on “the strength of their economic development plans, the potential for impact in their communities, and the depths of their partnerships across the public and private sectors to carry out their plans.” The federal press release states that MadREP will receive coordinated support for community strategies from eleven federal agencies with more than $1 billion available in federal economic development assistance, a dedicated federal liaison at each agency to help navigate available resources, and be recognized on a government website accessible to prospective investors looking for information on our community’s competitive attributes.
MadREP’s Vision As A Manufacturing Community
MadREP’s designation lasts for two years, includes thirty projects, and our region may reapply for continued designation. According to the EDA’s IMCP electronic handout, the designation comprises “a 14 county region in Wisconsin that is focused on agriculture, food and beverage (AFB) manufacturing as [our] key technology sector (KTS). [Our] rural and semi-urban counties have a natural competitive advantage in climate, soils, water resources, and rainfall, as well as a superior infrastructure. ...A key target of [our] effort will be to take advantage of the growing trend toward ‘local foods.’ Communities around the country are looking to local food projects to increase food security, as well as support small farmers and rural economies. [Our] priority area is infrastructure and site development, where they emphasize ‘asset based economic development investments’ over recruitment strategies, including plans to expand the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchens, upgrade [FEED Kitchens], build a Madison Public Market, and construct a training center and trucking logistics center. [Our] plan predicts creating an additional 2,499 jobs in AFB businesses, $822.8M in new KTS revenues, and $1.5 billion in total… benefit to the region.”
Our Part in MadREP’s Economic Development Strategy
Part of the proposal to receive designation required a strategy for operational improvements and allowing for greater capital access. According to the EDA, our region is home to “key industry clusters that can help support innovation in… information technology, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, etc. The combined power of the region’s research and business sectors, including the region’s rapid advances in its information technology sector, could… make the KTS a leading food innovation region.” We are one of the private partners noted as a “diverse group of lenders in the region who are able to assist with capital availability,” by providing technical assistance and loan funding to increase operatingefficiencies and position local food businesses for financing and investment.
Local Vendor Loan Fund Expansion on the Horizon
In Fiscal Year 2014 we issued three loans totalling $100,000 to Creme de la Coulee Cheese, Keewaydin Farms and Healthy Ridge Farm through the pilot Local Vendor Loan Fund. As previously stated, we planned to monitor the repayment and success of the loans over two years’ time and assess for expansion of the program throughout the monitoring process. We are just gearing up to begin reviewing what expansion could look like, and the IMCP designation could not be a more timely and welcome reason to start looking ahead. MadREP’s application specifically cited our Local Vendor Loan Fund’s expansion as one of the many projects, continuing our partnership with Forward Community Investments and UW-Extension to “issue low-interest loans to farms and food businesses in order to grow their operations and properly align supply with the increasing demand for locally grown, prepared and processed foods.” The plan also includes the technical assistance portion of our pilot program, which assigns UW-Extension staff to “provide ongoing technical assistance as projects position themselves to grow and effectively compete in the marketplace.” MadREP’s application allocated $250,000 in IMCP funding as matching funds to the Local Vendor Loan Fund’s expansion. Representatives from MadREP will be visiting Washington, DC, this August to find out more about the designation. After we find out more from MadREP, we will be reconvening our Loan Fund Committee this fall to discuss this brand new development and how to grow our still budding pilot program.
Sustainable Development of Our Community
This is what Cooperative Principle 7 (Concern for Community) is all about, working for the sustainable development of our community. By working with MadREP to gain this important community designation, your Co-op played a small part in making over $1 billion in federal assistance available to bolster our local producers’ positioning as a driver of the economy. The IMCP is good for our community and that makes your Cooperative proud to play a role in its success. Making the Local Vendor Loan Fund a part of a larger system that is committed to bettering the economic standing of our region shows how we can succeed and share in the success at the same time. Thanks to you and to MadREP, we are looking forward to continuing to develop the Local Vendor Loan Fund for our local vendors who provide the delicious foods that are putting our region on the map. Your commitment to our Co-op, your equity, and your generosity continue to be an innovative force for our community, and that is why we are continuously grateful that you choose to invest in us, and spend your dollars in your Co-op store.
Owners may find out more about the IMCP designation by:
- Reviewing MadREP’s Press Release at goo.gl/iQUY0D
- Visiting the IMCP site at www.eda.gov/challenges/imcp/
- Reviewing MadREP’s full IMCP application and letters of support (including ours) at www.madisonregion.org/about/research-and-reports/