Council leaders and the Mayor were accompanied by the Minister for Agriculture, Jim Paice MP, on a visit to the Northants Advanced Processing Centre (APC) at Kettering this week. The development, a 70,000 tonne grain store and processing centre, will support the food manufacturing business across the region and represents a major investment that will support the 17,000 local jobs employed in the sector.The visit marked the significant progress that has been made since ground was broken in autumn 2011 towards the site’s first operational harvest in 2012. Forecast to cost a total of £12m when completed in 2013, the project has benefitted from a grant of £4.39m awarded under the European Union’s rural development programme. “Food manufacturing is a major contributor to the region’s economy and it is the home of many leading brands with around 17,000 people employed in the sector. We therefore welcome this major investment that will greatly strengthen the infrastructure and improve the supply chain for the local businesses in this sector,” said Jim Hakewill, Mayor of Kettering Borough Council.“There is strong competition within East Anglia and the Midlands for investment of this type so we are particularly pleased to have helped to secure it for the future of the local community,” he added.The project owes much to the determination of Pytchley farmer David Reynolds who worked hard to bring the local stakeholders together to explain his vision. “The East Midlands is home to some of the UK's premier food brands with a growing international dimension. I think that it is exciting that one of the UK's leading farmer controlled businesses is making this strategic investment in the Northants APC right at the heart of this ring of companies,” said Mr Reynolds. “Not only will it give the region’s farmers a whole new dimension to their marketing, it will give these companies an assured supply of the right ingredient, at the right price, on time at the heart of their operations 24/7 throughout the year. As someone who has been involved in business in the region for over 35 years it has been a great pleasure to be part of the team that is bringing this vision to a successful launch for the 2012 harvest. The potential for the region is immense,” Mr Reynolds added.Rapid progress over recent months has seen the erection of the first bulk facility for up to 55,000 tonnes of food quality ingredients for the 2012-13 marketing year. In addition, 2012-13 will be the first time that region’s food manufacturers will have enjoyed the benefits of total logistical control of their supply of grain-based ingredients on their doorstep. According to John Latham, Cam grain chairman and Cambridge farmer, the store will help protect domestic markets from the threat of imported crops. This will be to the benefit of the local farmers who have signed up to secure improved access to premium markets, and to UK households who will benefit from the security of supply and reduced exposure to market volatility the store affords its customers.“We see this as a win-win for the local area,” says Mr Latham. “Food processors, including millers and breakfast cereal makers, increasingly want grain based ingredients supplied to tight specifications so that it gives the consistency of performance that their manufacturing systems require.” The project benefits from its close proximity to the Corby link-road development that will give local businesses improved access to the A14 linking East Anglia with the Midlands.