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Posted on Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

Planning task force formed for agribusiness job-training program in Ypsilanti

By Staff

A 17-member planning task force has until Aug. 31 to report back to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners with plans for a new job-training pilot program in Ypsilanti.

The county board gave approval earlier this month to establish the task force for the proposed program, officially called Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti.

The program is intended to provide job training and placement for low-skilled, unemployed workers, specifically those interested in agribusiness. The initiative also involves the creation of a shared kitchen incubator and technical support, giving agribusiness entrepreneurs a low-risk opportunity to expand production and take products to market.

Commissioners received a six-page report on the program from Mary Jo Callan, director of the Office of Community and Economic Development.

"Poverty and unemployment are on the rise in Washtenaw County and throughout the state," Callan wrote in the report. "The state Legislature's recent action to limit cash assistance will create even more need in the community. A new approach is needed to engage longtime impoverished residents who have not been successful in traditional workforce development and human service efforts to transition them out of poverty and into full employment."

Callan said the initiative has the support of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Gov. Rick Snyder. The program is planned to be based in Ypsilanti to make it easily accessible to population centers with proportionally high poverty rates.

"Its primary aim is to provide a space for low-skilled, chronically unemployed or never employed residents to experience success in a low-skill, meaningful job in the growing agribusiness and food service sector, with opportunities to advance into other full-time employment opportunities within the industry," Callan wrote to commissioners.

"All participants will have access to onsite childcare, skills training, coaching and case management, and volunteer job navigators to help them stay engaged in employment and transition out of poverty," she added. "Additionally, any interested participants will be paired with an entrepreneur to assist in planning and launching a related business venture."

The 17-member task force is to include a representatives from the county, MEDC, Washtenaw County Workforce Development Board, Food Gatherers, Zingerman's Community of Businesses, SPARK, city of Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan and others.

The task force also will be supported by a technical committee of county staff and others. The county board has asked that the task force complete its work and report back by Aug. 31.



Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

I have to admit I'm stumped by this article. I cannot see how this will move anyone from poverty to anything other than more poverty. Food production and service jobs? In Ypsi? Where? The task force board looks more like a networking opportunity than one where anyone has spent any time ever actually working on a farm even with the Zing packaging and service experience. I really really really don't get it.

joe golder

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

Cash there are plenty of employers in the area who offer training to new employees. Zingermans,restaurants, bus drivers....ect. The bigger problem is transportaion, child care, and and maybe the biggest one,a desire to go look. How about spending money to bring in new business who will provide jobs and training. I didn't have a degree and have worked many demeaning jobs no one would do. I'm sure there are places for people to go for help with job interviewing. I'm glad there is an effort being made to help folks who are about to loose the help they have had, but left, right, rich, or poor things have changed. Somebody please take the key to the money box and hide it!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

I am guessing you haven't been out job hunting in the past 5 years. Things have changed a bit! Good grief!!!!!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

Can't please some righties..... They complain that the poor could be working but they take welfare. They complain when a training program is developed to train the poor to work and get them off of welfare.

joe golder

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

So use money we don't have to train people to do a job Americans won't do! I bet the farmers would be happy to train them. I'm surprised there hasn't been a recent documentary about American families Living in camps and following the growing season. Having said that I'm sure there is going to be huge changes in the Agro biz! We will see a big jump in small urban farming. Green house farmers supplying local needs will have to be educated in this new technology and their start up will need to be funded. The out come of these efforts will make us more self reliant. I have heard about someone doing this on St Joe campus.

Darin Lewis

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Here's the real problem with (local) government: So the report states that "Residents of eastern Washtenaw County spent an estimated $346 million on food in 2010. Redirecting 10% of that spending toward locally produced food would put nearly $35 million into the local economy". So the basis of moving forward is that they believe they can redirect up to $35Million the county's food purchases into this new "local" supply (from those who will be retrained) The problem is that the $35 Million number is fictitious. Why, because as is typical with (local) governments, the data is not analyzed, rather it is manipulated to support their wishes. What do I mean by this? Not all of the total food consumption ($346 Million) can be redirected to the newly retrained "agribusiness". Typical food consumption in America shows that of the 1,996.3lbs of food we consume per person per year: - 415.5 lbs are vegetables, - 32.7 are eggs, and - 273.2 lbs are fruits. (info available thru the FDA) Proportionally, then, of the $346Million spent on food, only $125Million is spent on items that can potentially be redirected toward these new agribusiness people. Redirecting 10% of that (the stated goal of the proposal) equates to only $12.5Million, less than half the number Ms. Callan uses as her justification. So even assuming the program is 100% effective, it will result in a success rate of only 36% of the justification. The real question, then is, does this new information still justify the creation of the task force?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Are you saying that you envision this program as only addressing fruit, vegetables, and eggs, and therefore only able to capture a slice of those categories? Or that this program only addresses prepared foods, and so can't capture a slice of those categories? Either way, I read the 10% number as being demonstrative of the potential impact, rather than a specific target -- but nor is $12.5m small potatoes (sorry), especially if that's primarily in labor costs for value-added food processing and manufacturing activities.

information please

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

It's surprising that Growing Hope is listed as a resource for this project, but isn't part of the planning task force. This project seems to be in alignment with their mission.

average joe

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

Maybe they should fill some of those 'at large' positions on the task force with some people that know the business of agriculture, like say farmers that actually make their living from farming.

martini man

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

I'd rather see the money spent to keep Fire and Police personel. Way too much waste of money for all these useless liberal projects. There should be an across the board scrapping of all these progressive boondoggles.. But I know since Ann Arbor controls the county aint gonna happen.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

1bigbud, Snyder is "the Left"? ? ? The right has to organize a low paid farming workforce to deal with tighter immigration law. Major agribusiness been caught a few too many times on the western side of the state running illegals as workers, including their very young children...even on national tv. Cannot have that happen.

average joe

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Cash- Didn't say that it doesn't happen. My response was directed at your pointing to the 'story on TV', which, turned out to be just that, a story.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

average...if you don't think agribusiness uses illegals.....I've got some farmland to sell you in NYC.

average joe

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 1:59 a.m.

"....even on national TV." Come on Cash, don't believe everything you see on TV. That 'in depth' story about the blueberry farm & their workers was, well fabricated. The feds went through all the workers on that farm & found not one that didn't have the proper 'status' to work there. And the little kids that were shown picking the blueberries, they were on someone else's u-pick farm down the road.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

Yep Spend $100,000 to teach them how to do a $8 an hour job Thats the Left doing what they do best A 17-member planning task force needs to get a job picking corn & beans next year and learn how its done Its called OJT