$2.9 million in American Rescue Plan Funds awarded to Hart to support food processors.

August 23, 2022

$2.9 million in American Rescue Plan Funds awarded to Hart to support food processors.

HART – US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday, Aug. 23, that the department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $2.9 million grant to the City of Hart for wastewater treatment upgrades to support the city’s food processing industry, states a press release from the US Department of Commerce. This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan.

This project will expand wastewater treatment capacity to allow local fruit and vegetable processors to expand their operations and attract new businesses to the area. This EDA grant will be matched with $2.9 million in local funds and is expected to create 75 jobs, retain 425 jobs and generate $2 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

Hart City Manager Rob Splane said in a phone interview that he is thrilled to find out the news. “Statistical averages over the last 10 years show all of our industries have been growing — Michigan Freeze Pack, Gray & Co., which is owned by Seneca Foods now, and Great Lakes Packing — which does an awful lot of cherry production work.” In a four-week season, they process 2 million pounds of cherries, said Splane. “Each year they’ve grown, and even through the pandemic, they’ve shown double digit growth figures.” Eighty percent of maraschino cherries in the world are produced in west Michigan, said Splane

“Our wastewater plant, which was designed 20 years ago, was designed to be able to double in capacity,” said Splane. “At the time everybody kind of laughed at it and said, ‘We’re never going to double in capacity.’ In just in the last couple years, we’ve been having some really scary conversations about maybe having to shut these businesses down — or at least limit what we can take from them — and the implications from that can be catastrophic, especially with the agriculture industries.

“We’re looking to finance some of the work, but to have this grant is just huge — great for our rate payers, great for our industry.

“The first project was kind of an emergency project — and it’s not going to utilize this funding — but this project that we identified is going to kick off likely in October or November, and the resulting projects we’ll hopefully be able to bid this winter for construction starting in early spring. We’re looking at two years of really intense projects.

“I’m really excited for with the opportunities that we have coming up — being able to leverage some of our local funds with state and federal funds. To have this money is just a big relief because it’s alleviating a lot of the risk that falls on our rate payers and local taxpayers.”

“President Biden’s American Rescue Plan offers direct relief to American communities as they work to build a better America for the future,” said Secretary of Commerce Raimondo. “This EDA investment will strengthen the food processing industry in Hart, Michigan, that will help build a stronger, more robust regional economy and boost US competitiveness on the global stage.”

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support locally-driven strategies to boost business recovery efforts in west Michigan,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “Critical infrastructure upgrades in Hart, Michigan, will give the region a competitive advantage to create new jobs, expand the food processing sector and attract private investment, making the local economy more resilient and equipped to overcome future economic disruptions.”

“Today’s investment in Hart, Michigan’s water infrastructure will create and retain 500 jobs, spur local small business growth, and build on the recent, bipartisan budget I just signed,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Investing in our infrastructure is critical to building communities that are conducive to business growth, and today’s grant will make long overdue upgrades that will empower the region’s food processing industry. I will work with anyone to invest in our water infrastructure and grow Michigan’s economy.”

“This project will help our processors expand their operations and promote new partnerships with farmers to help make our supply chain more resilient,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “It’s a win-win for the community and Michigan agriculture.”

“This federal support will allow the City of Hart to make critical updates that will expand their wastewater treatment capacity and support the region’s food processing industry, vital to their local economy,” said Senator Gary Peters. “I was proud to help secure this funding through the American Rescue Plan, which will support Hart’s economic growth and job creation.”

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to American communities. The Economic Adjustment Assistance program is EDA’s most flexible program, and grants made under this program will help hundreds of communities across the nation plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through construction or non-construction projects designed to meet local needs. Effective May 26, 2022, EDA has officially closed all of its American Rescue Plan programs for applications. The $3 billion program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through September 30, 2022.

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