Grand Rapids’ The Right Place Supports Peterson Farms Expansion, New Community Transformation Fund

Peterson Farms Inc. in Shelby, Mich., north of Muskegon, has announced a $22 million expansion of its operations that will add 54 jobs. The project has the support of The Right Place Inc., the Oceana County Economic Alliance, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Community Capital, and Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development.
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Peterson Farms fruit processing
Peterson Farms, a fruit processing plant in Shelby, has announced a $22 million expansion. // Photo courtesy of Peterson Farms Inc.

Peterson Farms Inc. in Shelby, Mich., north of Muskegon, has announced a $22 million expansion of its operations that will add 54 jobs. The project has the support of The Right Place Inc., the Oceana County Economic Alliance, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Community Capital, and Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The expansion comes as a result of upcoming growth to Peterson’s product lines. It will acquire juice bottling and applesauce lines from out of state facilities as well as equipment for blueberry processing and apple peeling. The additional 35,536 square feet of production space will enable the company to procure more than 115 million additional pounds of fruit.

“Peterson Farms is grateful for our partnership with the MEDC, MDARD, MCC, and Oceana County,” says Aaron Peterson, CEO. “As we continue to pursue our mission of processing high quality Michigan-grown apples, blueberries, tart and sweet cherries, and peaches to our customers’ varied specifications, we also are eager to help those communities in which we operate as well as those supporting Peterson Farms’ grower partners. The expanded processing operations, developed with the assistance of the MEDC, MDARD, and MCC, enables Peterson Farms to expand the employment opportunities for an additional 54 Oceana county associates while also creating the opportunity to process over 115 million pounds of additional fruit products grown by our grower partners.”

The expansion is being supported by a $1 million Community Development Block Grant awarded through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Strategic Fund, more than $3.1 million in New Market Tax Credit Equity from Michigan Community Capital and PNC Bank, and a $135,000 grant from the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development Michigan Food and Agriculture Investment Fund.

“MCC is proud to use this scarce federal resource to support Peterson Farms, the MEDC, the state of Michigan, and its local partners in creating more opportunities for quality jobs and a stronger agricultural market in rural Michigan,” says Eric Hanna, president and CEO of Michigan Community Capital. “MCC felt this was the correct project to be involved with because the company and industry are highly impactful to working families in, and the local economy of, the region.”

Established in 1984 by Earl Peterson, a fourth-generation fruit grower, Peterson Farms now offers frozen fruit and fresh-cut apple processing. It produces more than 150 million pounds of fruit products and 7 million gallons of apple juices and ciders annually. The company is Oceana County’s largest employer, with up to 900 seasonal and full-time employees during peak season.

“Peterson Farms is a critical part of the Oceana County community,” says Jodi Nichols, business development coordinator for Lake and Oceana counties at The Right Place. “The variety of career paths and extensive employee benefits programs made available to residents by Peterson Farms are essential to our local economy, and this expansion is an exciting win for the region.”

The Right Place is a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit that works to drive economic prosperity in west Michigan.

In related news, The Right Place also announced it will help develop the New Community Transformation Fund, an investment fund based in Grand Rapids designed to support diverse business owners. Other partners include Bank of America and the Consumers Energy Foundation.

The fund aims to increase ethnic and racial diversity in business ownership in West Michigan. It will also focus on businesses that intend to provide multigenerational wealth creation within historically disadvantaged groups.

In 2020, the fund consultant team will focus on the design and development of the fund, including the goal of raising $15 million-$25 million in capital. The team will primarily be seeking family offices, institutional investors, and corporate partners. The goal is to launch the fund in 2021.

Bank of America and Consumers Energy Foundation each have provided $200,000 in startup capital. The funds will support the design and development of the fund, including creation of the fund’s legal structure and operational systems and establishment of a management team, advisers, a board of directors, and securing local and national portfolio growth partners.

A consulting team including Skot Welch, general partner; Kwame Anku, fund consultant and CEO and chairman of the Black Star Fund; and Birgit Klohs, senior adviser and president and CEO of The Right Place will lead this stage.

“West Michigan has one of the strongest performing economies in the nation,” says Klohs. “Yet, this economic growth has not been shared by all members of our community. By investing in companies that will create long-term economic prosperity in communities of color, this fund will increase upward mobility and ultimately build a more diverse and globally competitive economy.”

The fund will focus on scalable early to mid-stage businesses and transitioning succession companies in the industries of advanced manufacturing, food processing and agribusiness, life sciences and medical devices, and information technology. It will invest in current and prospective west Michigan companies.

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