Consumers, retailers, and restaurants are clamoring for locally made, healthy products, and companies across Michigan are stepping up to meet this growing demand. Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of 18 commodities, including blueberries, cucumbers, tart cherries, and dry beans. In fact, its food and agriculture industry is the second most diverse in the country, producing more than 300 commodities and generating $101.2 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.
The state’s favorable weather patterns, ideal location, and convenient transportation infrastructure offer ample opportunity for businesses that grow and convert crops into consumer products, including such food industry leaders as Gerber, Post, Tyson, Yoplait, and Kellogg’s, all of which do business in Michigan.
Those household names aren't alone in enjoying Michigan's many agribusiness advantages. Clemens Food Group, a family-owned, midsized food business, is building a pork processing facility in Michigan, in partnership with a group of other family-owned Michigan businesses. It is the company’s first production facility outside of Pennsylvania and the largest single investment it has made in its 120-year history.
CEO Doug Clemens was happy to join forces with a group that shares his company’s commitment to stewardship and family values. He has also been impressed by how seamlessly different levels of Michigan government work together. “I’ve never seen a state, county, and city government all function as one for a common cause as they do in Michigan,” he says.
Clemens also notes that the food business today is being transformed by customers’ expectations, particularly regarding transparency and social impact. Noam Kimelman, who leads Detroit Food Academy, a nonprofit after-school program that teaches students how to launch their own socially conscious food businesses, sees the same shift in customers’ priorities. “People are becoming more conscious about what they eat. They want to eat healthier things and do business with companies that have a sense of mission,” he says.
Detroit Food Academy students produce their innovative products at a shared-use facility called Hopeful Harvest, a subsidiary of Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit dedicated to relieving hunger and preventing food waste in metro Detroit. Kimelman describes it as “an incredible resource for start-up entrepreneurs who are outgrowing their own kitchen spaces.”
The combination of entrepreneurship and thriving, iconic brands makes Michigan's agribusiness sector unique. And successful. In fact, food and agriculture jobs account for 22 percent of the state’s total employment, according to the USDA. From the state’s sublime weather conditions and transportation infrastructure to its cooperative and socially minded business environment, there’s never been a better time to be a Michigan agribusiness--of any size.