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Plans continue for Canton food hub

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CANTON — Now that state funding has been secured for a regional food hub, officials have to determine the size of the facility and select a site.

The proposed North Country Regional Food Hub was selected to receive $350,000 of the $90.2 million in state funds awarded two weeks ago to the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

Stephen E. Knight, chief executive officer of United Helpers Inc., said the award was less than requested, so other options will be considered to supplement the state funding.

“The scope of the project has to be determined based on the award,” Mr. Knight said Monday. “We’re going to have to look at what we got and what else is available. We’re looking at all options when it comes to grants and financing.”

The project involves setting up a facility in or near Canton that would process and distribute locally grown meat, vegetables and other foods. Potential large-scale customers include the area’s colleges, nursing homes and hospitals.

“We’re thrilled with the state award,” Mr. Knight said. “We think this food hub has incredible potential to jump-start agriculture industries in St. Lawrence County and be a real benefit to farmers and producers.”

Several buildings are being considered as possible sites, including the new Canton Industrial Park off Commerce Lane and the vacant Jubilee grocery store in Midtown Shopping Plaza, Miner Street.

“We’re looking at all the options, mostly in Canton because it’s the central part of the county,” Mr. Knight said. “The scope of the project will dictate, to some degree, our selection.”

The St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency is seeking to fill the first building in the business park, Executive Director Patrick J. Kelly said. Tenants include the IDA offices and St. Lawrence Brewery.

“It’s a mixed-use industrial-shell building,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’re interested in any potential occupants.”

The proposed food hub is being launched by Sparx, a for-profit business that was started by United Helpers Inc. and North Country Pastured. They were the two lead agencies in the application for the state economic development funding.

The agencies are collaborating on the food hub project with three other organizations, GardenShare, North Country Grown Food Cooperative and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Representatives from those agencies serve on a planning group that will meet again soon to discuss the next steps for the project, Mr. Knight said.

“We met on multiple occasions while we were putting together the application. The group will be getting together soon to determine the scope of the project,” he said.

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