December 15, 2011

Something’s cooking in West Memphis

The Delta Regional Authorit y recently announced a $400,000 investment in West Memphis to support the development of Delta Cuisine: A Southern Kitchen Incubator. Building on the rich culinary heritage and agricultural traditions of the Arkansas Delta, this innovative incubator will provide technical assistance, skills training and access to commercial-grade, licensed kitchen facilities for culinary entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Arkansas Delta, across the state and in adjacent markets. Delta Cuisine will create jobs and build a local economy around culinary skills and enterprises.

Project coordinator Beth Wiedower says there’s plenty of potential for successful food service businesses in West Memphis and the surrounding area.

“From award-winning barbecue sauces to chocolate gravy recipes handed down from generation to generation, these culinary businesses draw on local resources, talent, and skill sets to create jobs and enterprises which can thrive in rural communities,” Wiedower said. “We are thrilled to partner with the Delta Regional Authority on this innovative project and thank the Chairman and the Board for their investment in Delta Cuisine.”

Successful local food-based businesses create opportunities for multi-generational investment and pair well with regional heritage tourism efforts to attract visitors to the Arkansas Delta, Wiedower says. Sustainable economic development, such as Delta Cuisine, is the basis for viable, sustainable communities with strong local economies and quality of place.

Delta Cuisine is a collaborative effort of the City of West Memphis, Main Street West Memphis, Mid-South Community College, the National Trust for Historic Preservationai??i??s Arkansas Delta Rural Heritage Development Initiative, Arkansas State University and Arkansas Delta Byways. The project has also received a financial commitment from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to purchase commercial-grade kitchen equipment for the facility, as well as commitments from alt.Consulting and Winrock International to provide business and technical assistance. Total investments and commitments to date total more than $1 million.

Wiedower says a project manager should be hired in early 2012 and that the incubator should be operational by 2013. A final location has not yet been chosen, but Wiedower says it will likely be on the Mid-South Community College campus.