Alton 'culinary incubator' to help home-based businesses

The City of Alton is working on a center that promises to boost the economy and also help cooks and bakers become business men and women.

Rio Grande Valley bakers and cooks could soon have a place to brush up on their skills and sell their goods.

As Claudia Gonzalez sprinkles, spreads and slices, she's thinking of ways to create her own business.

She's a baker at heart and hopes to capitalize on her talent.

"To contribute to the family's income," she said.

But as a stay at home mom, she takes care of her three children while her husband is away at work, and she said her daughters are her priority.

"If I could have my own business selling my baked goods, I'd be able to work and contribute to the family income while still taking care of my daughters," said Gonzalez.

Soon her dream could become reality.

The city of Alton, Texas A&M, the University of Texas Pan-Am, and the Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone corporation are teaming up to bring a culinary incubator to the Valley.

"It has a lot of validity especially for our community because of our clientel," said Alton's Assistant City Manager Steve Pea.

The culinary incubator would help business entrepreneurs turn their at home food business into a source of income| educators will be on hand teaching the entreprenurers how to make and sell more nutritious food.

"That is going to give opportunities to individuals to start up businesses where they didn't have the resources to do it," said Pena. A grant application has been filed.

After that, interested entrepreneurs will be asked fill out an application to participate.

Gonzalez said she hopes when the time comes, her application is accepted so that she can sell empanadas at the center.

"I would love to be involved, so that I can start promoting my baked goods and learn how to improve them," said Gonzalez.

Once the center starts operating, the entrepreneurs will be able to sell their products at the incubator.

The Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone filed the grant for the incubator this week, and now, it's just a waiting game, but the city of Alton said they're confident they'll receive the grant.

If received, the $800,000 federal grant would cover operational costs, a kitchen and small restaurant in the city of Alton's incubation center.