Taco truck grabs grant jump start

MARQUETTE – With a $7,775 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Dia de los Tacos food truck owner Mike Walker is looking to upgrade his restaurant on wheels.

“We started out with a pretty small amount of seed money and bringing in that influx of cash is really going to help us be a bit more stable,” Walker said.

The grant is part of the MEDC’s Mobile Cuisine Start up Program, which is intended to “expand the mobile cuisine, or food truck, industry throughout Michigan,” according to an MEDC-issued press release.

The program provided one-time grants of up to $10,000 to new food truck businesses or to growing pre-existing businesses. It required at least a 25 percent match from the business, though projects with a higher match were scored more favorably.

Dia de los Tacos will invest $12,000 on top of the grant.

“We bought this (truck) used, we’re having to replace the engine, we’re having to replace the generator this week, we had to replace fuel pumps, so it’ll hopefully get our truck in a little more mechanically sound spot where all of a sudden we don’t have to shut down one day because something broke,” Walker said. “It’s going to be a huge asset for us.”

Walker said he was able to secure the grant with help from the Lake Superior Community Partnership, and that part of the money will also go toward becoming a full member of that organization.

The MEDC said the grants were intended to “assist with community and economic development by increasing pedestrian traffic in downtowns and traditional commercial cores” and successful applicants were announced by the corporation Aug. 30.

Seven other food trucks scattered throughout the Lower Peninsula also received grants, with a total of $77,775 awarded.

Dia de los Tacos was the only grant recipient not to receive the full $10,000 amount because part of its grant application requested money for food, which was not allowed under the program.

A total of 65 applications requesting $601,372 were submitted to the 2013 Mobile Cuisine Grant Program this summer.

Walker said as time goes by he’s hoping more food trucks will pop up around the state.

“I’d love to see more of them in Marquette,” Walker said. “I liked being in cities that have them a little bit more prevalent. I think it’s a hugely growing industry. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be here as well.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.