Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to travel with Jared Hicks, USDA Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Specialist, to attend the grand opening of a new 19,500 square-foot grocery store in Winnsboro, Louisiana. It was an exciting and happy day for the community residents on the south side of Winnsboro and surrounding towns. Local residents, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and community leaders all were out to celebrate the impressive day-long opening of Ford Food Center. Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) a retailer-owned cooperative and one of the largest wholesale grocery distributors in the United States had staff on-hand to provide assistance for this occasion.
The first thing to catch my attention was the size of the store for this community and the fresh produce section. There you could find a variety of affordable, quality, locally grown vegetables, and assortment of fresh fruits for the customers to choose from. The customers expressed to the owner how grateful they were to see that he stepped up to address a major concern and need for this area of the town. Someone mentioned that they had to travel to the other Ford’s Food Center in Wisner or Jonesville and that now they would be able to shop locally.
Quinnon Ford, the owner of Ford’s Food Centers, operates four rural grocery stores in the Delta region, and chose the corner of State Highway 4 and Eighth Street based on the need for quality and affordable food for the community. This section of the town was designated as a “Food Desert” and under-served area. People who live in “Food Desert” areas generally lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, affordable food choices, supermarkets, and adequate transportation. This location was a perfect fit for Mr. Ford to build, based on its closeness to a post office, housing development, school, and other businesses that will be able to benefit from the locality of the grocery store and competitive price savings for consumers. The store will also provide a market for farmer’s and access to healthier food choices for community residents.
USDA Rural Development provided a Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan to refinance debt on existing facilities owned by Ford Holdings, LLC to construct the new grocery store, purchase machinery, equipment, inventory, and other costs associated with the project. The project provided jobs for over 20 contractors, laborers, and other workers during development. It created 45 jobs and saved 86 for a total of 131 jobs at an above average wage rate.
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