El Pajaro Community Development Corporation (El Pajaro CDC) is celebrating its 36th anniversary with exciting news — the organization recently received notice of a $799,000 award from the federal Community Economic Development Healthy Food Financing Initiative (CED-HFFI) that will support the expansion of its Kitchen Incubator Facility and enable the creation of more jobs for the local community. El Pajaro CDC is among only nine organizations across the country to receive one of the 2015 CED-HFFI awards.
These funds will finance an expansion of the current food processing and distribution facility by adding two production lines to the commercial kitchen to automate and make mass production more efficient for food entrepreneurs working to grow their businesses. The funds will also support improvements to the berry cooling and processing space. El Pajaro CDC will partner with other regional organizations for the implementation of this project including the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz.
The project’s goal is to create a minimum of 32 new, full-time jobs. “The new production line provides a “second layer” of incubation for food entrepreneurs that require small batch co-packing services. This will enable local food entrepreneurs to expand and access more and bigger markets. We are thrilled about this new venture,” says Carmen Herrera Mansir, Executive Director for El Pajaro Community Development Corporation. Carmen adds, "We urge anyone in Monterey, Santa Cruz or San Benito Counties who is interested in becoming a food entrepreneur or starting or expanding their own business to check out our valuable low cost programs at www.elpajarocdc.org and take advantage of our trainings, consulting and facilities!" To attend a Kitchen orientation register on http://www.eventbrite.com/o/el-pajaro-community-development-corp-3792240153
Another great accomplishment this year for El Pajaro CDC was the acquisition of the building that houses the Commercial Kitchen Incubator (the Incubator), located at 412 Riverside Dr. in Watsonville, CA.
“This has been a very long process, and we are absolutely delighted to own this building,” says Jorge Reguerin, Board Chair of El Pajaro CDC. “Ownership of the facility will provide tremendous long-term benefits to the community as a whole. We work with amazing entrepreneurs who produce impressive products that deserve to be seen in the market.”
The Incubator program has been recognized as an innovative platform for emerging entrepreneurs and small business growth in underserved communities. The program links culinary micro-entrepreneurs with an affordable shared-use commercial kitchen, industry-specific business training, affordable produce and new markets for their products.
El Pajaro CDC began building its Community Kitchen Incubator program in 2011, originally leasing the then-vacant building and investing in tenant improvements to build a professional, shared-use commercial kitchen. Funding to purchase the building was secured through a loan from Santa Cruz County Bank and guaranteed by the USDA Rural Development Program.
This project has received strong support from the local community and key stakeholders and elected officials. “Promoting the empowerment of local entrepreneurs is the right strategy for a healthy economy and job creation. The Kitchen Incubator leverages people’s potential to realize their dream of building a successful food business with small investment. For this reason, I am proud to support this initiative,” says Congressman Sam Farr.
The Incubator currently houses 26 independent enterprises operating out of its kitchen. Participants can access business skills training and infrastructure for culinary entrepreneurs to successfully develop sustainable livelihoods, including catering businesses, food trucks, farmers’ market stalls and specialty packaged food businesses. Successful micro-business owners develop formal food-based businesses that evolve into self-sufficient, income-generating ventures that support the entrepreneurs, their families, and their community.
El Pajaro Community Development Corporation formed in 1979 to improve economic opportunities for low-income Central Coast residents. Its mission is to promote equal access to economic opportunity and job creation for small, for underserved, low-income and Latino-owned business in the region. It has assisted hundreds of emerging entrepreneurs through its bilingual, bicultural business training, education and technical assistance.