Federal funding to help agricultural innovation in Central Valley

Local leaders celebrated $88 million in federal funding secured to enhance economic development and agriculture.

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Saturday, October 22, 2022
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One of the oldest buildings in downtown Fresno that's sat vacant for decades is poised to become a central hub for agriculture and innovation.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- One of the oldest buildings in downtown Fresno that's sat vacant for decades is poised to become a central hub for agriculture and innovation.

But that's only part of what's to come for the Central Valley.

"It's time for the region that feeds the nation to be the nation's priority," says Ashley Swearengin with the Central Valley Community Foundation.

Surrounded by White House and state representatives, local leaders celebrated $88 million in federal funding, secured to enhance economic development and agriculture.

"Everything is fitting together in terms of how we're tying in ag, downtown, universities, innovation, farming," says Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. "All of it goes hand in hand and taking advantage of federal dollars."

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation F3 coalition was awarded $65.1 million, and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation was awarded $23 million.

The money will support roughly 1,000 small farmers, training for 8,400 food and ag workers and help increase wages.

In addition, the iCreate ag-tech hub poised to be located in the old Bank of Italy will house research and resources, as well as partnerships with UC Merced, Fresno State and the region's eight community colleges.

Students and workers will have access to training and new technology.

"We need to make sure we're not just upskilling our workers, but that we're giving opportunities to young folks to come into those jobs of the future," says U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Castillo.

Within the next three years, the goal is to see at least 2,500 new jobs created in fields including business services, construction, manufacturing and transportation.

Castillo says it's an investment in more than just goods and services.

"We want to make sure the country as a whole recognizes the value of the Valley but more importantly, that we're investing these dollars because that's where not only are we investing in ourselves, but in our communities," she said.