An Emerging Ag Incubator for the Petaluma Fairgrounds

Petaluman David Powers presented an intriguing idea to the Petaluma City Council at their December 1, 2014 session during the public comment period prior to going into closed session. Courtesy of Mr. Powers, here are his comments in their entirety. More to come on this in the near future.


Public Comment, Closed Session

December 1, 2014

The Fairgrounds: One Idea of Many: An Incubator

The uncertainty and confusion that surrounds the Council’s current negotiations is a direct by-product of the closed session conversations which are currently taking place.

I speak as a member of the community, as one of its many stakeholders. There is a fear that the public will be delivered one final unalterable option, when so many opportunities abound.

Re-creating an existing lease, even at a significantly increased rate structure, does not begin to address the wide range of options that can be part of the fairground’s future. And, it limits the economic potential that is currently locked up in this model.

I’d like to ask that the Council instead consider ideas that help link the past with the future. Petaluma is an ag-based community with a rich history. However, the established agricultural economic model is likely to be challenged in the future.

Put simply, dairy, and most of “Big Ag” is commodity-based. This is a very challenging landscape for young people without the advantages of family land holdings to help them compete going forward. And, it leaves behind many young creative people without these assets, but with ideas and energy.

If the Fairgrounds were developed with an eye to this emerging problem of the future, Petaluma could take the lead in supplying an economic alternatives to the young people who have grown up in this environment. What I’m proposing is to link the agricultural heritage of the past with an economic incubator of the future. In this way, the city could provide for its own economic future success by investing in the talent and innovative desire of it younger generation.

An incubator could be a virtual university in how to take yesterday’s agricultural commodity-based products and add value to them through various artisanal manufacturing processes.

More importantly, an incubator could provide an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to make any business a success. It could and should include learning opportunities in business structure and practice, manufacturing, distribution, marketing–all focused on products based locally. It could also include a suite of fully licensed and certified commercial kitchens that will allow small volume start ups to bring a product to market without the huge and necessary capital investment.

This is a development model that can be combined easily within the tradition of the Fairgrounds, which can become a center of innovation in the center of the community. But it needs the big thinking of the city to make it happen.

I hope that you will consider alternatives and options like this as you address what the future of the Fairgrounds can become.

Thank you.

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