Food Innovation Centre in Chilliwack shuts down

The Food Innovation Centre in Chilliwack, which opened just a year ago with federal and provincial funding, is shutting down.

The Food Innovation Centre in Chilliwack, which opened just a year ago with federal and provincial funding, is shutting down at the end of this week.

The four staff at the centre received notice that their jobs end Friday, and FICBC CEO Mike Leslie said his job will continue — on a part-time basis — only until the end of March.

“It’s unfortunate, trying to get a startup (company) going in less than a year, and then having its funding cut,” he said.

Leslie said the centre serves “a broad range” of food-related clients, from individual farmers who need help getting their produce to market to larger companies dealing with regulatory issues.

The centre currently has 130 clients, and Leslie said his part-time job will include finishing up those contracts.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Agriculture Ministry announced a $262,500 grant for the centre, but Leslie said that is old money and does nothing to help the current situation.

“There must be an election coming,” he said. “They’re reporting things that are a year old.”

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick said he was not aware of the grant announcement.

But he explained that the ministry could not approve the total $645,000 requested by the centre for 2012-2013 because its five-year business plan “relied almost exclusively on taxpayer dollars” and the centre needed to find other funding sources to cover its operational costs.

He said the ministry approved $345,000, about half the requested funding, and informed the centre of the reduced amount in April so they could look for other funding sources.

The centre was started with $400,000 from the Growing Forward fund, a joint federal-provincial program aimed at supporting business development, innovation, food safety and sustainability.

Letnick said FICBC could still apply to the Growing Forward II fund, “but they will still need to come up with other sources for operational costs.”

He said the ministry will continue to fund capital costs of “innovation projects” in B.C., but not “administrative” costs.

Dave Eto, president of the BC Food Processors Association, did not return a Progress call for comment, but in a news release the association said if the FICBC shuts down, “the food processing industry, part of the number one economic driver of the economy, will be the loser.”

He said in a letter to Letnick that the centre “must have adequate support from government to fund their operations for the first critical years of existence and (for) the transition from startup to commercialization.”

“While the Ag Minister and the Premier continue to make speeches featuring the $3.5 billion in new sales and the 20,000 jobs to be created through innovation in the agrifood sector by 2017, it seems meeting these targets is now even farther away,” he said in the release.

NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham could not be reached for comment, but Chilliwack-Fraser MLA Gwen O’Mahony said the centre had a “very good” business plan that would see it become “eventually self-reliant — but it takes time.”

She said the NDP caucus supported the FICBC, and without it, she believes B.C. will be “lagging behind” other provinces which do have similar innovation centres.

“This is one of those issues that had we been in Victoria (in legislative session), we would have raised it in Question Period,” she said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

Just Posted

A black sedan, white SUV, red pickup truck and black hatchback were all involved in a four-vehicle collision at Hodgins Avenue and Yale Road on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack’s top 10 worst intersections for crashes in 2020

Overall collisions down by huge numbers with fewer drivers in pandemic year

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read