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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Kitchen will no longer be too hot for area's aspiring entrepreneurs

Rebecca Singer readies the 2,400-square-foot kitchen for tomorrow's grand opening. Rebecca Singer readies the 2,400-square-foot kitchen for tomorrow's grand opening.
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HASKINS - If you can't stand the financial heat, get into the co-operative kitchen.

Beginning tomorrow, aspiring entrepreneurs armed with Grandma's secret sauce formula, Granddad's chocolate chip cookie recipe, or merely an idea for a new food item will have a local place to develop those ideas cheaply and using commercial-grade cooking equipment.

It is the Northwest Ohio Co-operative Kitchen, on State Rt. 582 about five miles north of Bowling Green.

Modeled after a food-based business incubator that opened eight years ago in Athens in southeast Ohio, the northwest Ohio kitchen is designed to spur food-related businesses in the region.

''The idea is that you get them started and nurture them with the idea that they're eventually going to move out and start their own business,'' said Rebecca Singer, a foods manager for the Center for Innovative Food Technology, one of four partners involved in the venture.

Also involved in the 2,400-square foot kitchen venture are the Agricultural Incubator Foundation, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Ohio State University Agricultural Business Enhancement Center.

It will operate as a licensed food-production facility and contains commercial production equipment, a resource library, marketing assistance, and a storage area.

''It's more of an industrial-size kitchen with ovens, prep tables, sinks, pots, and pans," Ms. Singer. "We're looking to get additional equipment that's appropriate for processing.

''Say that someone is making salsa in their kitchen at home. Here they could easily make 20 to 30 cases a day versus what they could make with their regular pots and pans at home.''

The nonprofit kitchen will charge $20 per hour. Set-up and clean-up time is free.

Prospective tenants need only a business plan and liability insurance to rent the kitchen.

The incubator, at 13737 Middleton Pike, is to have an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow, in part to try to attract potential users.

''We have had a lot of contact with people within the industry who have given us contacts. It's a struggle because you really don't have any particular place to go to find everyone who might be interested in this.''

She added, ''Some food companies are looking to use it to research another product. We're also talking with restaurants about producing what they're famous for - specific sauces or dressings.''

The agricultural incubator foundation has applied for a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further equip and expand the kitchen. The equipment there now was donated from businesses that have closed, school districts, and other sources.

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