Who We Are

Our Vision

The West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative was established in October 2017 with support from the Consumers Energy Foundation in cooperation with the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, the City of Muskegon, Muskegon County, and many other organizations all committed to “planting the seeds of connectivity” throughout West Michigan.

Our Goal

Bundle existing local agriculture attributes with the benefits of expanding regional food processing capabilities. Position the results in a location to thrive. Food processing in Michigan has the potential for rapid growth especially in "Future Food" healthy processing and export markets.

There is a strong base of agricultural and food processing related activity throughout Michigan and West Michigan to include location and establishment of food processing operations, education training, and product development and incubation. What is missing is a holistic view of the sector to include alignment and integration of synergistic strategies and opportunities.

In addition, the positive results of growing the industry can become a basis for addressing economic challenges in the region. Michigan’s 300 agricultural commodities can supply products for natural food providers, ready-to-eat products, and private label markets. New opportunities exist for raw products and healthy processed foods that will drive economic growth.

American food products are highly sought in international markets because of their quality and safety. In addition, food products produced using renewable energy and healthy processed are marketing trends with growth potential that matches Michigan’s ability to meet this demand.

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Source: MEDC and MDARD

Why West Michigan and Muskegon

West Michigan is home to one of Michigan’s principal agricultural regions with over 5,000 farms in the surrounding area. With a long history of food processing, the region  is a prime location for expanding and growing the sector. Muskegon, with its many attributes and central location within the West Michigan agricultural region, is positioned to become a principal location for:

  • Strategic access to prime fruit and vegetable growers and proximity to other agricultural suppliers.

  • Access to underutilized waste water treatment capacity.

  • Michigan’s fresh water capacity.

  • Michigan’s growing renewable energy sector.

  • Logistic and distribution attributes — Western Michigan’s largest commercial deep water port with easy access to rails and highways. Potential Cross Lake Shipping provides direct links to western U.S. and Asian markets.

How It Will Work

INFRASTRUCTURE
  • Lead development of a “shovel ready” food processing industrial park

  • Identify existing or potential locations for developing the food processing industrial park

  • Identify and link supply chain from “farm to table”

  • Identify target industries who plan to expand within North American or export markets

EDUCATE
  • Link to education partners including Michigan State University, Muskegon Community College, and others

  • Identify labor pool needs with focus on youth and veterans

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
  • Lead development of product development and incubation center of excellence

  • Link existing “kitchens” in Muskegon and other locations in region for product development

  • Connect start-up food processors to incubator space where food innovation counselors assist in development and commercialization of high-value products

  • Set up collaboration with culinary programs to locate test restaurant incubator for graduating chefs

LOGISTICS
  • Promote Port of Muskegon as key agriculture port

  • Assist development of Cross Lake Shipping service for new market growth

  • Assist with development of increased rail and shipping capacity for supply chain for a regional food processing cluster

  • Assist with establishment of food hub and distribution networks

Our Team

Gene Ford

Marty Gerencer

Dennis Marvin

Clarence Rudat

The West Michigan Food Processing Association is supported by the Consumers Energy Foundation, Community Foundation for Muskegon County, and other regional stakeholders.

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