We wanted to update our community regarding the news that Congressman Sean Casten has earmarked $847K towards Prairie Food Co-op and has passed the first hurdle by being approved by the House Appropriations Committee. We want to take this opportunity to explain what this means for Prairie Food Co-op.
PFC has been working with Congressman Sean Casten over the past year and submitted a grant request via our non-for-profit fiscal agent, the Cooperative Development Fund, for funding to help us open our store. We were recently notified that our funding was approved and would be included in Rep. Casten’s requests for funding in the appropriations bill.
From Rep Casten’s website: “$847,000 in funding would be used to fill the funding gap for the Prairie Food Co-op. This project will revitalize the economy, support the growth of local microbusinesses, and create $1.5 million in revenues for local agriculture and local food businesses. This capital investment will construct and equip DuPage County’s first community owned grocery, which will fulfill the objectives of the committee by: - creating 50-80 living wage jobs with opportunities for advancement and comprehensive - benefits, - creating steady income streams for over 300 local urban, suburban and rural Illinois farmers and producers - generating $13M in economic activity, and - stimulating the creation of 8-12 micro-businesses.”
This is of course VERY exciting news and we are very hopeful that this funding makes it all the way to the President’s desk (wow!), but in the spirit of full transparency, we feel it is necessary to manage expectations.
Funding Not Fully Approved Yet
The PFC project was included in the baseline House appropriations bill and passed out of the full appropriations committee the week of July 1.
Next, the full House of Representatives must pass the appropriations package and then negotiate a final bill with the Senate. Once negotiated, both chambers have to pass the negotiated bill and send it to the President’s desk. This funding is not guaranteed until the President signs the final bill and could be removed at any step during this process.
We want to set expectations appropriately, with ourselves for planning purposes with you, our community. There is no defined timeline for this process. Last year’s appropriations passed in March 2022. We do not have an estimated time of when this year’s appropriations will pass.
This Doesn’t Change Our Situation at 109 S. Main
As previously communicated, we have a minimum $1.2M funding gap that we hoped the village of Lombard and DuPage County could help us close with upfront grants, TIF, or other municipal support. These upfront funding requests were denied.
Unfortunately, even if our funding request is fully approved by Congress, we still have a funding gap at 109 South Main. Additionally, COVID-related supply chain issues and inflation have resulted in substantial price increases for equipment and some building materials with the likely outcome that the 109 South Main project is more expensive than our financials demonstrated 1 year ago.
The PFC Site Team continues to evaluate potential sites in our community for viability. We have worked too long and too hard to take shortcuts now and will not move forward with a site until success and viability are proven via professional market study data. Our mission to support local farmers and food producers is increasingly important.
We have dedicated significant time and resources over the past 10 years to open our mission driven grocery store. We raised $1.7M from Owners and have commitments from several lenders. We are in a strong position to move quickly for the right opportunity. There are currently several uncertainties that make planning a challenge, but we are hopeful that we will have a site announcement later this year.
How You Can Help
Many have asked what more can be done to help us with opening our store. We ask that that if you please consider becoming a PFC Owner if you're not yet. In adidition to being a PFC Owner, you can help increase our chances of receiving this funding by letting Rep. Casten know how many of his constituents appreciate his effort to secure this funding for PFC. Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Facebook: If you're on facebook, like, share, and comment on PFC’s photo on Rep. Casten's fb page. You can also leave a message directly on his page thanking him for supporting Prairie Food Co-op (also, like us if you haven't already)
- Email: You can send an email through the email form on his webpage. This is a more “official” way of contacting him.
- Call: You can call his Glen Ellyn office at (630) 520-9450 or call his D.C. office at (202) 225-4561 and let the staffer know how excited and appreciative you are that Rep. Casten is helping secure this important funding for this first community owned grocery store in DuPage County!