University of Hawaii breaks ground on food entrepreneurship facility

Pacific Business News
By Janis L. Magin

The University of Hawaii Community Colleges broke ground this week and plans to start construction in July on the Wahiawa Product Development Center in Central Oahu.

The $12 million project will turn a metal warehouse at 100 California Ave. into a value-added product development center where students from Leeward Community College can learn entrepreneurship skills while developing value-added food products.

Students will be able to develop products such as baked goods, pickled products, ice creams and juices, which will help local farmers utilize off-grade produce as ingredients, minimizing food waste.

“The Wahiawa Product Development Center will be instrumental in supporting the diversification of our local economy by adding value to Hawaii’s agricultural and food sector industries,” UH Community Colleges Vice President Erika Lacro said in a statement. “It will take the knowledge, creativity, innovation and uniqueness Hawaii offers to the next level, creating a robust workforce pipeline and providing the tools and skills for local farmers and entrepreneurs to take their value-added food products to market and beyond. Bringing this to the heart of Oahu achieves a critical milestone for our state in food security and sustainability.”

The state Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Development Corp. bought the property from Tamura’s in November 2013 for $4.29 million, and UH launched plans for the center in late 2019 with the publication of a draft environmental assessment. Ushijima Architects is designing the project.

“Products that are made-in-Hawaii are highly desired worldwide and we have a huge opportunity with the WPDC to capitalize on that global demand. Value-added entrepreneurship is critical for economic recovery as we look to strengthen the agricultural industry and diversify our economy to be less reliant on tourism,” state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz said in a statement. “Wahiawa welcomes this community investment and looks forward to working with the University of Hawaii in the years to come.”

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