Food production is the bridge between rural and urban America. In small towns like Moses Lake, Washington, Burley, Idaho and Boardman, Oregon, far from the bustling urban areas of Seattle, Boise and Portland, food production drives local economic prosperity.
The fertile soils and wide-open spaces of rural Washington, Idaho and Oregon yield vast quantities of products – wine grapes, berries, apples, wheat, potatoes, asparagus -- treasured by consumers in major urban markets across the United States.
Food production is crucial to the economic prosperity of most rural Northwest communities. From the fishing ports of the coast to the fertile alluvial plains of the Columbia Basin, food processing companies such as J.R. Simplot, Ocean Spray Cranberries, ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston, and Smith Frozen Foods are, often, one of the only sources of family-wage employment.
But while there are obvious benefits to their sometimes-remote locations, rural food processors face a number of unique challenges: smaller pools of well-qualified workers, greater distance to markets and shipping nodes, fewer local energy efficiency, workforce training, innovation and productivity resources.
The Northwest Food Processors Association Rural Competitiveness Initiative is a catalyst to help close those gaps. The Initiative seeks to identify and create key competitive resources, including an online knowledge exchange, energy efficiency assistance, directly to rural food processing companies in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Building on the success of the 2003 NWFPA Cluster Initiative, NWFPA’s Rural Competitiveness Cluster Initiative will help to enhance the competitive capabilities of all rural food processing companies by increasing their access to critical energy efficiency, innovation and productivity resources, services and opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving.
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