US Senator Padilla visits Fresno to celebrate $88 million funding

From left, Carole Goldsmith of the State Center Community College District, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Scott Anderson of the Penstar Group, Senator Alex Padilla and Fresno State Chairman Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval review building plans of the Bank of Italy. Photo by Gabriel Dillard

published on October 14, 2022 – 14:00
Written by Gabriel Dillard

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Castillo were joined by a who’s who of elected officials and state and local dignitaries Friday morning to celebrate $88 million in federal grants coming to the Central Valley through the Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation (F3) and Build Back Better initiatives.

They were greeted at a press conference outside the city center Bank of Italy building on Fulton Street, which is envisaged as the future home of the iCREATE technology center as part of F3.

After a tour of the Yo’Ville Community Farm near Edison High School, the band spoke at a press conference to applaud the Central Valley Community Foundation and Fresno County Economic Development Corp. – Applicants to the two grants totaling $88.1 million from the US Economic Development Administration.

“This will change our world forever,” said Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of Fresno EDC, which has secured $23 million for its Central Valley Built 4 Scale initiative to train 2,500 residents for jobs. in industry, transport and logistics.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Castillo
Deputy Commerce Secretary Alejandra Castillo speaks during a news conference Friday morning. Photo by Gabriel Dillard

The F3 Coalition has secured $65.1 million to create an agriculture and food technology innovation cluster led by local universities and community colleges. Ashley Swearengin, president and CEO of Central Valley Communication, said the effort will result in a 40% increase in regional gross domestic product.

The theme of the event: Fresno and the Central Valley has become a national and even global economic force.

“It’s time for the region that feeds the nation to be the nation’s priority,” Swearengin said.

Part of the F3 initiative would be the creation of the Innovation Center for Research and Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Technology and Engineering (iCREATE). The event took place in front of the vacant Bank of Italy building, which is envisaged as the future headquarters of iCREATE.

That would be a long way off, as no lease has been signed for the 35,000 to 40,000 square feet that the innovation center may eventually take up residence at the Bank of Italy.

Erected in 1917 by the San Francisco-based Bank of Italy, which became Bank of America in 1930, the eight-story structure was once the center of Fresno’s financial universe. It became vacant in the early 1970s and was acquired by Fresno developer Tom Richards in 2009.

He sought a marquee tenant since it would spur a full-scale renovation of the building.

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