Stimulating the palate — and economy

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July 19, 2013, 7:34 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - A West Coast innovation that Boston tried out starting in the summer of 2011, food trucks have grown from 15 then to a fleet of 56 now operating across the city, with twenty special parking locations set aside for them.

It’s not every day that Bone Daddy’s Burgers or Mei Mei Street Kitchen gets a visit from the governor of Massachusetts – but with close to $5 million in state grants to hand out, Governor Deval L. Patrick came by Dudley Square in Roxbury to highlight food trucks like these as one facet of a good – and growing – source of jobs for inner-city Boston.

"It’s about access and connectivity, about ensuring that all of us have an opportunity to create and take advantage of economic opportunities," Patrick said in an event in a long-vacant parcel next to Tropical Foods Market on Washington Street, on the edge of Dudley Square. The square is sporting its first tall construction cranes in decades as a new School Department headquarters takes shape in the Ferdinand Building at the heart of the square.

One of three projects for which Patrick announced grants totaling $4.5 million is being hailed as the last, critical piece of financing to turn that vacant parcel into an expanded Tropical Foods supermarket plus $44 million in retail and office space and 68 housing units.

A second grant is supporting the new New England Center for Arts and Technology culinary school in Newmarket that, starting in September, will train 54 young people as cooks and food-industry workers in four-month sessions.

About a mile away from those two projects, a third getting state aid is the Bornstein & Pearl Food Production Small Business Center on Quincy Street in Grove Hall, a former meat plant that’s becoming a multi-purpose food-business startup space, commissary for stocking food trucks, and other facilities expected to create 150 new jobs by the end of 2016.

"It's one of the most exciting projects in Boston today, let me tell you," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. "It will support many emerging food entrepreneurs."

Menino estimated that as many as 30 to 50 little food businesses and sole proprietorships could be launched from the Bornstein & Pearl Center, "creating jobs for the next generation of individuals in our city, creating jobs for the food industry, which is a growing industry in Boston."

Patrick said as a mutually reinforcing cluster of startup activity, "They create opportunity. They build a future rather than leaving that future to chance,"

With videographer Bob Ricci and video editor Lauren Kleciak

Tags: Boston, Peter Howe, Deval Patrick, Thomas M Menino, Boston food trucks
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