Main Street West Memphis
Main Street West Memphis
NEWS / PROJECTS
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for a kitchen incubator in
West Memphis, Arkansas

KITCHEN INCUBATOR
The City of West Memphis, Main Street West Memphis and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Rural Heritage Development Initiative (RHDI) partnered with the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service (UACS) to research and develop a comprehensive feasibility study for a potential kitchen incubator facility in West Memphis, Arkansas. The purpose of a kitchen incubator facility will be to serve as a catalyst for economic development and provide an opportunity for microenterprise development and entrepreneurial expansion in the low-income, economically depressed, rural region of the Arkansas Delta. A kitchen incubation project allows entrepreneurs in the region access to a licensed facility in which to produce large quantities of prepared foods for public consumption and sale. Successful kitchen incubators provide technical assistance in the form of marketing and promotion, food sciences, business services, financial literacy and workforce skills.

West Memphis, like much of the Arkansas Delta, is suffering from years of economic decline. The Arkansas Delta, as defined by the Rural Heritage Development Initiative, includes 15 counties bordering the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas. As of July 2008, ten of the top fifteen highest unemployment rates in Arkansas were from counties in this region.* Each of the 15 counties had per capita incomes lower than the state average, and 23.1% of residents in this region were living below poverty level compared to 15.8% in Arkansas as a whole. West Memphis is struggling, along with the larger region, with a significantly lower median household income and percentage of high school and college graduates in contrast to comparable cities in Arkansas.** The need for economic development is obvious, but the medium is not as clear.

The landscape of the Arkansas Delta is unique. The heart of the region’s economy is agriculture, but with the mechanization of agriculture after WWII, jobs were lost and local economies suffered. The resulting high unemployment levels and low educational attainment levels make traditional economic development efforts difficult.

Currently, thousands of microenterprises are helping to bolster the struggling economy in the Arkansas Delta. Drawing from their roots and unique cultural heritage, many small businesses are producing home-cooked food products for resale. However, because of the limits of home kitchens, these entrepreneurs struggle to grow their business to scale.

West Memphis and the Arkansas Delta need an economic develop strategy and tool that addresses its unique issues and assets. A kitchen incubator facility would provide needed infrastructure for small entrepreneurs in the food industry to produce quality products - following safety standards and regulations in a cost competitive way – to bring their businesses to scale. The goal of a West Memphis kitchen incubator facility would be to become an economic engine, both local and regional in scope, which draws from and builds on the community’s assets and agricultural roots. The kitchen incubator would take a comprehensive approach to economic development by combining resources, technical support, marketing strategies, and tourism opportunities to support local entrepreneurship and economic growth. This collective endeavor would not only be a more efficient use of capital, it would add to the support, visibility, and capacity of the individual businesses, leading to the long-term sustainability and success of the project as a whole.

*Arkansas Department of Workforce Service. (2008). Arkansas Department of Workforce Service. www.discoverarkansas.net.

**U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Retrieved October 2008, from American FactFinder: http://factfinder.census.gov

 

 
Design | Organization | Economic Restructuring | Promotions