Research Park Gets Cooking With Sunshine Kitchen

St. Lucie County now has the basic ingredients in place to begin cooking up jobs in the gourmet food industry.
St. Lucie County now has the basic ingredients in place to begin cooking up jobs in the gourmet food industry, after County Commissioners accepted a $895,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to begin building the Sunshine Kitchen Food Business Incubator at the Treasure Coast Research Park.

With an additional $896,735 match from the county’s general fund, the Treasure Coast Education and Research Development Authority (TCERDA) can now start the design and permitting phase to create this unique food processing business incubator. The concept of the Sunshine Kitchen is to create a professionally-equipped, commercial kitchen and research lab designed to assist entrepreneurs in the development of commercially viable food ventures, explained Ben DeVries, CEO and executive director of TCERDA. 

“This facility will be the bridge to get those fledgling food entrepreneurs to the next level,” added DeVries. “Our goal is to create 250 jobs over the next 10 years.” 

The Sunshine Kitchen would serve as a working laboratory for food entrepreneurs to develop a product, process, market or package it, and then promote the product to the general public. The incubator would connect the entrepreneur with professional business consultative services to assist in developing a business plan for the venture in order to ensure a sustainable operation.

Long-time cattle rancher and TCERDA Chairman Mike Adams told St. Lucie County Commissioners at their regularly scheduled July 7 meeting that the Sunshine Kitchen fits perfectly with the University of Florida’s new focus of “Farm to Fork” as well as the Florida Department of Agriculture’s “Fresh from Florida” campaign.

“It’s all about branding Florida’s produce, and we see this kitchen as a way to forward that message,” explained Adams.

Indian River State College has agreed to serve as a partner in this collaborative effort, citing the facilities’ potential for student instruction and for special cuisine or technical skills cooking classes which could be offered to the community at large.

Now that the grant has been accepted and funding is in place, DeVries said the county will begin the design and permitting phase, adding that construction completion most likely will take place in early 2017. The Sunshine Kitchen will be housed in the 1,600-arce Treasure Coast Research Park, located off of Kings Highway.

Currently anchored by the United States Department of Agriculture's 170,000-square-foot Horticultural Research Laboratory and the 90,000-square-foot University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' Research and Education Center, TCERDA's Treasure Coast Research Park is home to multi-disciplinary scientists, researchers and educators.
For more information about the Treasure Coast Education, Research and Development Authority visit: www.treasurecoastresearchpark.com.