cherry processing

Just-harvested Rainier cherries are processed at Warmerdam Packing near Hanford in this 2019 photo. Photo by David Castellon

published on September 2, 2022 - 8:51 AM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

The effort to create a new agricultural innovation cluster in the Central Valley received a $65.1 million boost from the White House Friday – the latest high-dollar investment in the local workforce.

From a pool of 529 applicants, the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Coalition was one of 60 finalists for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge.”

On Thursday it was announced as one of 21 winners — and the only one in California.

The F3 Coalition is led by the Central Valley Community Foundation, with members including the City of Fresno, Merced Community College, Fresno Metro Ministry and the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.

The Central Valley Community Foundation hosted a watch party Friday morning of the White House announcement of the grant winners.

“This is a big deal for our Valley! I voted to bring federal dollars back home with the American Rescue Plan, which makes it possible to deliver transformative investments like this to boost our regional economy,” said Rep. Jim Costa. “This $65 million grant will build a stronger, more resilient food system by integrating new technologies, improving farm productivity, and creating good-paying jobs. I have supported this project from the beginning and done all I can to advocate in Washington for the Valley to get more than its fair share. Combined with the Good Jobs Challenge grant, we have secured $88 million in federal funding. This is a significant investment for the future of our Valley.”

F3 would establish the Innovation Center for Research and Entrepreneurship in Ag Food Technology & Engineering (iCREATE), which would bring together the research arms of local universities for tech-based economic development alongside local growers and manufacturers. Community colleges throughout the Central Valley would also receive access to training and new technology to upskill students and workers for high-quality jobs in ag technology.

F3 represents the second big win for the Central Valley when it comes to federal funding to improve career opportunities for Central Valley residents.

An ambitious workforce program to place 2,500 Central Valley residents into high-demand jobs received a $23 million infusion from the federal government last month.

The program called Central Valley Built 4 Scale will be administered by the Fresno County Economic Development Corp. It is one of 32 projects in the U.S. receiving grants from a pool of 509 applicants as part of the American Rescue Plan’s $500 million Good Jobs Challenge.

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