GRAFTON, ND — A project that will provide entrepreneurs in northeastern North Dakota with low-risk space to grow their businesses will move forward after the announcement of a $1.6 million federal grant for building costs.
The 532 Hill Avenue project, led by the Red River Regional Council, will create a commercial kitchen and business incubator in Grafton, ND, providing space and programs for budding entrepreneurs in the city.
On August 23, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced that the Red River Regional Council would receive a $1.6 million grant from the Economic Development Administration for the project as part of the bailout American. The federal money is matched by $409,189 in local funds from partners including the Walsh County Job Development Authority, City of Grafton, Marvin Windows and Polar Communications.
“President Biden is dedicated to supporting communities as they seek to create new opportunities to drive business growth and create jobs,” Raimondo said in the announcement. “These EDA investments will support the efforts of businesses and labor in North Dakota to help communities there build stronger and more robust local economies.”
The space is provided for an existing building at 532 Hill Ave. in Grafton which sat empty for about seven years. It is located in downtown Grafton and when completed will include a commercial kitchen, retail spaces, conference rooms, co-working spaces and offices. The project was designed by Prairie Center Architecture, based in Park River, North Dakota.
“It brings a very intentional space of developing and supporting entrepreneurship, inspiring the development of new businesses, with a strong focus on food businesses,” said Dawn Mandt, Executive Director of the Regional River Council. Red. “Our goal is to help repopulate some of our main streets with unique destination, niche businesses.”
The shared commercial kitchen will be available for people developing their food business for rent. This will allow these business owners, many of whom have only worked in domestic kitchens, to grow their business and become familiar with working in a commercial space without having to take the plunge of investing in their own commercial kitchen. , Mandt said.
Working in a commercial kitchen also allows businesses to meet food safety and licensing regulations, which can open the door for businesses to be able to package and ship food products for sale. With retail areas in the building, business owners could set up shop to develop a local customer base.
“Potentially, a food company could have a storefront and have limited hours or a regular house to reach audiences more easily than with their online marketing,” Mandt said.
Entrepreneurs using the space will also have access to programs to guide them through starting or growing their business in preparation for running a business independently in the future.
“Our goal is to get people out of an incubator so they can have their own storefront or their own business,” she said.
In addition to a space to cultivate local businesses, Mandt envisions the Hill Avenue project as a community gathering space. The commercial kitchens could be used for cooking classes or by other organizations in Grafton when hosting events.
The 532 Hill Avenue project isn’t the only new development in Grafton in recent years. In 2021, a 36,000 square foot addition was completed to Unity Medical Center. This spring was the first year that water passed through a new flood diversion, which was also completed in 2021. The city is working with ICON Architectural Group to develop a new apartment complex.
Coupled with these recent developments, Grafton Mayor Chris West expects the 532 Hill Avenue project to make Grafton an even better place to live and work.
“All of these improvements that go into our community footprint make Grafton a smaller community that you can work from,” West said. “It offers a nice, small town feel for those who don’t want the hustle and bustle of a larger community.”
Once the federal grant is awarded to the Red River Regional Council, the space design will be finalized and the project will be posted for construction tenders. Renovating an existing building will shorten the construction process, Mandt says, and she expects the project to be completed by next summer or fall.
In the meantime, Mandt says, entrepreneurs and community leaders are excited about the opportunities the 532 Hill Avenue project will bring.
“There’s a lot of energy and people have a lot of good ideas, and that will give us more ability to nurture them in a meaningful way,” Mandt said.