The solution was implemented in phases over a multi-step process. Sustainable Economies provided pro bono services to support Local Roots in designing and implementing a combined economic impact assessment and feasibility study. First, the economic impact assessment showed that yes, Local Roots had a strong, positive impact on local food producers. A few key findings were as follows:
- 1 in 7 food businesses hired an employee because of Local Roots.
- 93% of food businesses surveyed have grown since they began working with Local Roots.
- Almost half of food businesses reported that they grew because of help from Local Roots.
Second, the feasibility study showed that yes, there was sufficient demand for entrepreneurial services for food producers and that it was worth moving forward with a new non-profit entrepreneurial center. Key findings were:
- 70% of food businesses surveyed want to expand over the next 5 years.
- The biggest challenges to profitability were “finding outlets for my products” and “competition from other growers and producers.”
- The top services that would be in demand in a new entrepreneurial center were promotion and access to new markets; support with technical assistance, especially around health codes and regulatory guidelines; support with developing innovative new products.
Below, the infographic summarizing the report and the full feasibility study report can be accessed.
The third step was to create a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, a process which took place from August 2020 to July 2021. A steering committee was formed, which included representation from Local Roots, Ohio State University’s CFAES Wooster, Main Street Wooster, Wayne Economic Development Council, Logee, Hostetler, Stutzman & Lehman LLC, Attorneys at Law, Sustainable Economies Consulting, and several local business and agricultural partners. The steering committee later evolved into the Board of Directors for the new nonprofit, which was named FoodSphere: The Entrepreneurial Center at Local Roots. Sustainable Economies facilitated the planning process with the steering committee, which resulted in the development of a mission statement and vision, as well as four 5-year goals to support the mission.