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Lynch: New facility expected to promote job growth

Seven years of planning came to fruition for the town of Unicoi last week.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Mountain Harvest Kitchen and business incubator was held on Friday, July 10, at the Unicoi Tourist Information and Tansai Art and Heritage Center.
“It is a great day,” said Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch. “This kitchen committee … all the work they put into it. All the support we’ve gotten from our congressmen, senators, both state and federal … We’re very excited about this project.
The 4,000-square foot facility, located beside the center, will include a kitchen and processing items, a research and development lab, walk-in freezer and refrigerator, receiving area, dry storage and office space.
Renovation of the building and construction of phase one of the project began on Monday, July 13. Following a 90-day period of phase one construction, Lynch said officials “hope to run straight into phase two” of the project.
Goins Rash Cain, Inc., of Kingsport is currently in charge of phase one work, which is estimated to cost over $81,000 – a nearly $39,000 decrease from the initial contract of $120,000. Work on the kitchen is covered by funding through grants, including Rural Development, Economic Development Admission and Appalachian Resources Commission (ARC).
“There are so many spin offs from this,” said Lynch. “Working with your own recipes, canning, entrepreneurship. I feel like this is going to create jobs and that is something we need here.
“Brunhilda Tober-Myer and all these other folks have worked hard on this project. We’ve gone to, probably, seven to eight similar kitchens in the state and in North Carolina, to learn things to do, not to do, and how to do the project correctly. We’ve put a lot of miles in over the years to make sure we do this project right.”
Developing a healthy influx of job creation was high on the list during the process of preparing for the day, Lynch said.
“As we got into the project we saw the need of having someone who has that spirit to create a business but didn’t have the money to open up a kitchen,” he added. “The perfect example I saw was a lady in Asheville who baked cupcakes. She used the Blue Ridge Kitchen in Asheville to make and label her own cupcakes and she sold them on the open market. Two or three years later she was financially able to purchase her own kitchen then someone came to the Blue Ridge Kitchen to take her place.
“It is a steady production line of jobs. Someone comes in, succeeds, then someone else can come in.”
Another important aspect of the facility will be educational programs in food health, Lynch said. Mountain Harvest Kitchen will be inspected and held to health and certifications by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the state’s department of health. A certified manager will be implemented at the kitchen while working with various state and federal programs. Different organizations are expected to partner with the kitchen, including East Tennessee State University’s Innovation Lab and the University of Tennessee Extension Office and Agricultural Department.
With each group taking part in the groundbreaking, State Senator Rusty Crowe and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Bob Corker and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander came out to show support for the town’s new project. Also in attendance were representatives from the Tennessee Human Resource Agency and the First Tennessee Development District.
For more information on the Mountain Harvest Kitchen, email [email protected] or call 743-7162.