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Ottawa investing $7.2M to expand London’s agri-food sector, create 550 jobs

FILE. via WesternFairDistrict/YouTube

The federal government is investing $7.2 million in The Grove, an agri-business hub, at the Western Fair District in London, Ont.

Officials say the investment, made through FedDev Ontario, brings together “infrastructure, capital, mentorship, training and innovation in agri-food,” and will allow for the creation of 550 jobs as well as the retention of another 100.

Read more: Cricket processing facility to bring 60 jobs to London, Ont.

The Grove, FedDev Ontario says, will provide a “unique incubation environment” with shared production and packaging equipment in addition to individual spaces for growing food companies, like LiveFitFoods and The Fritter Shop which have already set up at the Grove.

“Having been accepted as an applicant for The Grove, we’re now able to scale up our production and grow our business at a much more rapid pace,” The Fritter Shop owner Kelvin Van Rijn said.

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London West MP Kate Young tweeted that the announcement will “create 550 jobs and maintain 100 more right here in London by expanding The Grove at Western Fair District to build and boost food and beverage companies.”

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Mayor Ed Holder called it an investment not only in the Grove but “in sustainability, food security, and community.”

He added that The Grove and London’s entire food and beverage sector are well-positioned to become “even more meaningful drivers of London’s post-COVID economy.”

The Grove is also being supported by numerous local agencies, organizations, and businesses.

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A private-sector-led fund created by RH Accelerator will also help up to 20 early-stage companies through a one-year program that will offer a milestone-based business planning process and one-on-one mentorship.

The federal funding, as well as support from Libro Credit Union, will also allow the Small Business Centre and London Economic Development Corporation to expand existing programs on starting and growing food businesses through the entire region.

Read more: Maple Leaf Foods planning $660M, 1,500-job poultry-processing facility in London (2018)

“We are thrilled to partner with like-minded organizations in building a support ecosystem for food and beverage entrepreneurs,” Libro CEO Steve Bolton said in a statement.

“Local food accessibility and employment are two areas Libro is focusing its efforts to grow prosperity in southwestern Ontario and this exciting initiative will have tangible impacts in the region.”

The non-profit London Training Centre will also provide skills training “essential for the growth of this industry” while Western University and its university colleges and Fanshawe College “will be nurturing the talent necessary to feed the growth of London’s food and beverage sector,” FedDev says.

Currently, London has roughly 100 agri-food companies employing more than 7,000 people.