Federal funding to help agricultural innovation in the Central Valley

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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — One of downtown Fresno’s oldest buildings, sitting 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 to make the region that feeds the nation the nation’s priority,” says Ashley Swearengin of the Central Valley Community Foundation.

Surrounded by White House and state officials, local leaders celebrated $88 million in federal funding, guaranteed to improve economic development and agriculture.

“It all fits together in terms of the connection between agriculture, downtown, universities, innovation, agriculture,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said. “It all goes hand in hand and takes advantage of federal dollars.”

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

The money will support around 1,000 small farmers, train 8,400 food and agriculture workers and help raise wages.

Additionally, the iCreate ag-tech hub slated to be located in the former 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 technologies.

“We need to make sure that we’re not just developing our workers, but giving young people the opportunity to access those jobs of the future,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Castillo.

Over the next three years, the goal is to see at least 2,500 new jobs created in areas such as business services, construction, manufacturing and transportation.

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

“We want to make sure that the country as a whole recognizes the value of the valley, but more importantly, that we invest those dollars because that’s where we invest not only in ourselves, but in our communities,” she said.

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