Caldwell center prepares facilities for additional tenants

By DAVE WILKINS

Capital Press

A business incubator in Southern Idaho is helping entrepreneurs hatch their dreams of starting new wineries.

The University of Idaho's Business and Technology Center in Caldwell recently welcomed two new tenants -- Davis Creek Cellars and Fujishin Family Cellars.

The two are the business incubator's first wine tenants.

The center, which includes a food technology center with a commercial kitchen, has provided business incubator services to individuals and start-up food companies for several years.

A few years ago, it began providing lab analysis services for small wineries in the area.

"The wine incubator was kind of a natural extension of that," said Jim Toomey, director of the UI Business and Technology Incubator.

Right now, the winery incubator occupies about 3,500 square feet of space in the front part of the building. It took about $22,000 in funding to get the space ready, with most of the money used to install climate-controlled storage and floor drains.

Toomey hopes that an additional 5,000 to 7,000 square feet of space can be made ready for additional wine tenants within the next six months.

"We've got the potential to do it," he said. Plans include adding a bottling facility, perhaps one that could handle both wine and fruit juice hauled in from area orchards.

The new winery incubator also includes classroom space used by instructors in a new viticulture program offered through Treasure Valley Community College.

"The idea is to have it all here on site," Toomey said. "It's been fun to see it happen."

Groups that helped bring the wine incubator to the UI center include Sage Community Resources, the Caldwell/Canyon Economic Development Council and USDA Rural Development.

The economic development council provided $13,000 in funding; the USDA, $9,000.

Other new wineries are already eager to use the incubator when space becomes available.

"It looks very promising by early 2010 to be up to four tenants," said Steve Fultz, executive director of the Caldwell/Canyon Economic Development Council. "I think they would be in today if we were ready for them."

Officials said the goal is for wineries to get their start in the incubator, then move on to other facilities to make room for other start-ups.

The Idaho wine industry, which is centered in the southwestern part of the state, has been growing steadily.

There are 40 wineries in the state, up from 38 last year, according to the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission.

Staff writer Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho. E-mail: dwilkins@capitalpress.com .

Online

University of Idaho Business and Technology Center business incubator: www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/uiceed

Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission: www.idahowines.org

Davis Creek Cellars: www.daviscreekcellars.com

Fujishin Family Cellars: www.fujishinfamilycellars.com

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