It’s not often that you get a $3 million return on a $125,000 sale. Yet that’s what will happen if Warren residents vote to approve the sale of the Main Street School to the Hope & Main kitchen incubator group at Monday night’s special Financial Town Meeting.
It’s been a long time since anyone brought that kind of money to Main Street. And while that $3 million — a federal loan to Hope & Main to get the project off the ground — won’t go directly into the town’s pocketbook, it will help Lisa Raiola and her staff build the state’s first kitchen incubator in the old school, which has sat fallow for years and which currently costs the town about $22,000 per year to maintain.
The project is indeed innovative and would represent a first in Rhode Island. At its heart, the Hope & Main incubator seeks to fill what federal officials see as a major shortcoming in Rhode Island’s economy: A way to make sure that locally produced food stays local. Though farming and other food production is one of the healthiest parts of Rhode Island’s economy, the state lacks the critical infrastructure it needs to ensure that those locally-produced products stay local. Producers don’t have markets for their products, and that lack of support is a major reason why the USDA extended the low interest loan to Ms. Raiola and her group.
And how will that local infrastructure benefit Warren? Jobs, and buzz. The incubator will give residents the means to get their goods to market legally, efficiently and safely. Along the way, it will provide income for incubees, as they’re called, and the myriad of local suppliers from whom they buy.
And clearly, the incubator will put Warren on the map. Much like the Hope Artiste Village has transformed a formerly blighted Pawtucket mill complex, the Hope & Main project has the promise of transforming Warren to a place where excitement and opportunity mingle freely with the sweet smells of cookies, pies and other homemade delicacies wafting out on the breeze from the old school.
Vote “Yes” on the sale of the Main Street School at Monday’s Financial Town Meeting.