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The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen will house the Hodan Center’s food services as well as be available for rental for food-related businesses to prepare or package their products. The $1.2 million facility was built on the site of a former Dairy Queen the Hodan Center owned and operated. Photo by Kyle McDaniel/State Journal

MINERAL POINT — The main mission of the Hodan Center is to assist adults with disabilities. The addition of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen will lend a hand to the rest of the community, too.

"This is a big shiny spaceship that has landed in rural Wisconsin," said Rick Terrien, executive director of the Iowa County Economic Development Corp. "This is a major economic opportunity for the region. It's not the solution, but it's a solution. We can take care of lots of farm and family businesses around here."

There's enough of an economic development connection that Terrien's office will be based in the 10,000-square-foot facility.

During the day, the Innovation Kitchen will be used by Hodan Center staff for its food service businesses, including the Papa Pat's Farmhouse Recipes food line. After that, others can rent the kitchen and its equipment for $15 an hour.

Farmers could prepare products to sell at a market. A restaurant staff could prepare and bottle a popular specialty item such as a sauce or a dressing.

For a food to be sold retail, it must be prepared in a state-certified kitchen. Anyone using the kitchen needs, at minimum, a safe food handling certificate from the state.

Kitchen incubators, a shared and licensed kitchen for food entrepreneurs, are not a new concept. The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen tweaks the model in significant ways, Terrien said.

One is the business support entrepreneurs can receive. There will be networking opportunities, on-site seminars and one-on-one business counseling available.

Another difference is community access. An organization or education group could produce a food-related event. The facility will host a monthly Saturday class called "Everyday Cooking with Wisconsin Foods" taught by chef Joel Olson.

The biggest difference, Terrien said, is the in-house staff to prepare, process or package recipes or products entrepreneurs bring to the Innovation Kitchen. Hodan client-employees could do the work that farmers or producers don't have the staff or time to do, such as making a jam or salsa from their produce.

"We can even do the labels," Terrien said. "This is cheating, it's so cool."

The Papa Pat's line gives the kitchen an anchor tenant, which makes the project less of a risk.

Community access was part of the application for the $750,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state Department of Commerce that helped fund the $1.2 million facility.

 

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