Fairbanks Closer to Seeing Downtown Food Co-op

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks is getting closer to seeing a downtown food co-op.  The member owned community market may benefit from a low interest loan from a new economic development loan fund being established by Golden Valley Electric.  The utility has applied for a $300,000 United States Department of Agriculture grant, and is kicking in $60,000 of its own money to establish the fund.  GVEA President and CEO Brian Newton says helping the Food Co-op fits in with the utility’s mission.

Newton says if Golden Valley gets the grant, it will be the first utility to set up an economic development loan program in Alaska, but he says such funds are common among utilities in the Lower 48.  The dollars GVEA is contributing will come from unclaimed capital credits of former members. The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market has been in the works for several years.  The plan is for a member owned store that sells organic and whole foods, including local produce.  Co-op Market Project Manager Mary Christensen says the $360,000 loan from GVEA will represents a 3rd of what’s needed to open the store.  She says combined with a bank loan and member support, finances are looking good.

The Fairbanks Community Market has secured an option to lease a portion of the old Foodland Supermarket building downtown. Christensen says the total $1.2 million start up budget will cover renovation of the 6,000 square-foot store space, equipment, inventory and hiring a general manger.  She says things will be on hold until Golden Valley hears back on the USDA grant this fall, but renovation work will begin as soon as the money is secured.  She says that would set the Co-op Market up for opening sometime between January and April 2012.

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