'It's a great way to get your feet wet if you're just starting out in the business'

When Lea Richards first stepped into the pilot food processing plant of CFAES's Food Industries Center, she was taken aback.

"I was really amazed at the breadth of equipment that you have under one roof," said Richards, owner and operator of Pig of the Month BBQ. "There's all kinds of kettles, fryers, canning equipment, ovens for baking, a huge popcorn popper.

"It's a great way to get your feet wet if you're just starting out in the business, before you spend a ton of money."

The pilot plant Richards used when starting her business is one of two such plants in The Wilbur A. Gould Food Industries Center.

The center supports the food industry in a variety of ways, said Valente Alvarez, center director. Its facilities are available for entrepreneurs and established food companies that need a pilot-sized plant for processing, as well as professional development courses for food industry workers and managers, and government and academic personnel.

The center also offers both hands-on training for Ohio State students in food science and technology, Alvarez said.

"The center allowed us to experiment and develop the recipe for commercial production, and gave us the opportunity to develop a first-rate product."— Jim Kiourtsis, My Dadz Nutz

Established in 1982, the center acts as a link between the university and the state's vast food industry, and its influence reaches well beyond Ohio's borders, said Alvarez, who also has a partial appointment with OSU Extension.

According to Jobs Ohio, the state's food and beverage production plants employ more than 60,000 workers at 1,100 facilities, and in 2012, Ohio's food and beverage manufacturing industry shipped $24 billion in products.

 

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Video (1:00): Valente Alvarez talks about CFAES's Food Industries Center and its benefits.

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-- Martha Filipic, Communications and Technology