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As controversy surrounds economic growth efforts by Marshall Goodman, his business incubator in Immokalee continues to help local culinary startups thrive

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Rendy Ramos, WGCU
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Reshma Tannassee started her business Carina’s Manufacturing at the Immokalee incubator with just $200. She says the business now grosses more than $500,000 annually.

As controversy surrounding Marshall Goodman’s efforts to develop business incubators in rural Central Florida, the incubator he spearheaded in Immokalee continues to provide opportunities for new businesses in the rural Collier County town.

One culinary business start-up that’s launched through the incubator is Reshma Tannassee’s Carina’s Manufacturing.

She says the marinara sauces her company makes and sells are unlike anything we’ve tasted. Not only do the main ingredients come from local farms, but the sauces she brews in the incubator’s commercial kitchen have a Caribbean twist.

“So, it has cucumbers, pineapples, mangoes, a little bit of garlic, and that’s what gives it that powerful smell and the flavor of the tropical,” said Tannassee.

Her company is one of eight entrepreneurs using the incubator to launch a new business in the food industry. She remembers meeting Marshall Goodman the first day she visited the incubator in 2018, and said she’s grateful he launched the program.

“He said to me that this is the accelerator. It’s built for you and make it shine. This is what we see and this is why I built it,” said Tannassee.

“Having that word from him – it made me feel strong that day knowing that I can do it.”

Tannassee says she started Carina’s Manufacturing at the accelerator with just $200 and is now grossing more than $500,000 annually.

"It’s a perfect fit,” she said.

Development manager of the incubator’s culinary program, Ahmed El said 14 businesses have already graduated from the program, with some opening up restaurants or food trucks, and others moving into new facilities.

“The culinary accelerator, in my opinion, has been a success, has been something that’s been a resource for the community that not only for food entrepreneurs, but if you look at the facility as a whole we have worked with the emergency department manager in the county if there were ever to be something like an Irma this could be a place that can stage food that could get out to the community,” said El.

“We have a generator that runs the facility. We have the ability to make ice. So, there’s things that we could provide to the community beyond the entrepreneur in case of an emergency. We’ve also done trainings here and food work and workshops to kind of help educate as well. So, I think the facility itself, you know what it’s been able to accomplish, I think it’s been a net gain for a net positive for the community.”

El says this incubator is unique because it’s located in a food hub and an agricultural area so it’s a perfect fit for Southwest Florida’s economic growth.

The Immokalee incubator’s annual budget is just over $800,000 a year. WGCU requested the total number of jobs produced by the incubator since its launch. The county didn’t have those numbers available. We will update the story when we get that information.

This story provides additional follow-up reporting to an investigation by Florida Center for Government Accountability Journalism Program Director Bob Norman.

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