Nonprofit will use Rural Business Development Award for ongoing renovations to future business incubator space in Skowhegan.
Skowhegan, Nov. 1, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson announced today that USDA is awarding $99K to Main Street Skowhegan (MSS). The nonprofit organization will use the grant to help establish The Kitchen at 185, a new shared commercial kitchen space planned for downtown Skowhegan.
“The town of Skowhegan is a hive of business development, cultural opportunities, and outdoor recreation,” said Director Hampson. “When a town has
this much to offer, it shows the best of what rural life in Maine can be. But programs and activities do not emerge on their own: it takes hard work to sustain such a vibrant sense of community. At Rural Development, we’re thrilled to be able to support these projects. And we applaud Main Street Skowhegan for its vision and perseverance in pursuing not just funding, but true engagement across so many sectors.”
Director Hampson announced the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) at an event celebrating the end of a recent MSS business training program. Four aspiring entrepreneurs completed the series of classes. They competed in Wednesday night’s “pitch competition.” The competitors were Lyn Govoni (“Lights Up” Productions), Austin Wickett (Bytesum Technologies), Kim Smith (Unbelievable Freedom LLC), and Louis Morin (Franco Foods LLC).
Lyn Govoni of “Lights Up” Productions took home the $5000 in the competition. The judges selected Austin Wickett of Bytesum Technologies as the runner-up, awarding him a $1000 prize. (The Maine Technology Institute sponsored the prizes.) MSS offers the series of classes as one initiative to promote economic and community development in the Skowhegan area.
The Kitchen at 185 will provide food-based businesses access to an affordable commercial kitchen. Although it is legal in Maine to prepare and sell many foods prepared from a licensed home kitchen, many foods must be prepared in a commercial kitchen to be safe and legal for sale. By allowing area businesses to rent the resources at The Kitchen at 185 on an as-needed basis, MSS will enable them to diversify their products and expand capacity at a sustainable pace.
Main Street Skowhegan has leased a property in downtown Skowhegan for the new commercial kitchen space. Project organizers expect to continue renovations through 2024. They will use the RBDG grant to provide program and curriculum development and other components of the project. Other businesses and funders have contributed towards the project costs, and fundraising is still underway.
About the grant:
USDA’s competitive Rural Business Development Grant program funds projects that provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. Towns, nonprofits, business cooperatives, federally-recognized tribes, and other entities are eligible to apply. Visit the RBDG webpage or call (207) 990-9160 to learn more.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.