DECATUR — The makings of what Tony Caccomo sees as a massive transformation in locally based food production and distribution are starting to be put in place.
Caccomo and a group of business partners are in the middle of creating National Foodworks Services in the former Brush College School at 575 N. Brush College Road in Decatur. They see the business succeeding partially because of its location surrounded by major manufacturers and rich farmland.
“We're at the heart of food innovation in the entire country,” Caccomo said. “We have an opportunity right here. It's smacking us in the face.”
Caccomo spoke Thursday evening during the Millikin University Institute for Science Entrepreneurship speaker series about the project and its potential effect on the Decatur economy.
Construction is about halfway completed, said Jim Milano, one of the partners in the business venture.
“A lot of it is not obvious with all the demolition that we're doing,” said Milano, who worked with Caccomo at a similar facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
If everything continues to go as planned, Milano said equipment will be moved into the facility in January. He said various types of food will be produced at the facility with opportunities for co-packaging of products, private labeling and providing assistance for other businesses creating their own products.
By late next year, Caccomo said the business will likely have created at least 50 jobs with senior staff, production and sales positions in addition to other indirect jobs.
Archer Daniels Midland Co. President and CEO Juan Luciano committed $2 million in September to support the project. Caccomo said that investment is helping to propel the business forward.
Consumers are increasingly wanting to know where their food comes from, preferring locally produced products, Caccomo said. He said consumers don't want food from 5,000 miles away and packed with preservatives.
The business is being positioned to taking a leading role in shaping that trend in the Decatur area, Caccomo said.
He said Decatur has a vast transportation network that is highlighted through the Midwest Inland Port.
Caccomo said the network will be utilized to move products made at the facility to their destinations.
“Transportation and logistics are a huge part of the industry,” Caccomo said. “This trend is coming into the strong points of what we have here already. We're in the heartland with the richest farmland in the world.”
Caccomo said a brand of locally produced frozen foods is being developed, which will contribute to providing the type of produce in November through April consumers look for at farmers markets during the warmer times of year.