BrightFarms has selected Abilene as the site of its first hydroponic greenhouse farm in Texas. Based in New York, BrightFarms currently has facilities in Rochelle, IL; Culpeper County, VA; Bucks County, PA and is in the process of opening a new location in Wilmington, OH. Construction on the Abilene facility is slated to begin this summer, and the farm’s fresh, local, pesticide-free and non-GMO greens and herbs will be in area grocery stores by early 2019.
In October 2017, the Texas Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism contacted the Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF), on behalf of BrightFarms, to identify an ideal site as part of its efforts to expand into the southern market. The AIF works on behalf of the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) to promote the growth, development and diversification of the economy in Abilene by attracting new industries.
BrightFarms asked targeted Texas communities for greenfield sites to construct its next greenhouse operation. The AIF worked with the DCOA to formulate a response, highlighting land recently made available next to the Abilene Regional Airport. This area, Access Business Park, is being developed as Abilene’s next generation business park.
“Abilene’s central location, available land and incentive program plays an influential role in attracting this project to the city,” said Justin Jaworski, Executive Director, AIF.
The state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse will be constructed at an estimated cost of up to $17 million and create as many as 30 “green-collar” jobs for local residents, each paying a living wage and offering health benefits.
It is estimated that BrightFarms will generate $23.1 million in direct economic output over the next 10 years. Spin-off businesses in the community will produce $12.9 million in economic output in this same time frame, as a result of local operations. In total, the company will support $36 million in new economic output over this time.
The company will contribute approximately $12.5 million in payroll to the local economy in its first 10 years, according to Kent Sharp, CEO, DCOA. “The project itself will generate an additional $3 million in revenues to local taxing entities over this period of time, with $1.5 million accruing to the City of Abilene,” he said.
As a result, the DCOA approved a 10 percent match of the investment, up to $1.7 million, leaving the remaining 90 percent to be provided by the company. “The involvement from the DCOA to incentivize this company to locate in Abilene is a testament to all the great things our city has to offer businesses,” said DCOA Board President John Beckham.
The company will also receive approximately 21 acres in Access Business Park, valued at $632,700, to construct the 180,000-square-foot greenhouse. The incentive requires the company to meet minimum performance criteria for jobs and investment over the next five years. The project aims to begin construction in summer 2018 and be fully operational by early 2019.
Operating greenhouse farms to help meet the growing demand for year-round local produce, BrightFarms’ sustainable growing methods use 80 percent less water, 90 percent less land and 95 percent less shipping fuel than conventional agriculture. As the future of scalable, sustainable local farming, this model eliminates time, distance, and costs from the food supply chain.
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