We look forward to future development, expansion, and recruitment . The agricultural community is thriving in Lewis County this was evident in the Lewis County Farm Bureau tour that many participated in. There is promising economic growth with companies planning expanding and new companies emerging. The annual Economic Development course took place in Ellensburg this month. There were many presenters who shared valuable information on economic development across the region and the nation.
BUSINESS RETENTION AND EXPANSION
Allied Mineral Products
Allied Mineral Products, Inc. is a refractory manufacturer and sells their product throughout the world. They are an ESOP company which means the employees are the owners, and the only ones that hold shares of the company. Their products resist breaking down under high temperatures and are used in the aluminum, concrete, steel, mineral processing, foundry, and other industries. As a result of Allied Minerals’ acquisition of Pryor Giggey there have been a lot of things happening with their business here in Chehalis.
Justin Crider, the Operations manager, went to school for ceramics engineering and then got a job for Allied in Columbus, Ohio. After spending some time managing the quality control department there and at their Alabama operations, he was asked to come manage the operations here.
He has hit the ground running and has significant plans for the Chehalis location. “We are up to 25 employees, with most of them having been at the company for less than a year. We have 5 production lines, and we are currently running two at capacity, meeting customers’ demands.” In addition to their plant on Sears Road, the property they are leasing on Habein Road is housing raw materials and has plenty of room for potential expansions to their production process. Like many companies in our area they are always on the lookout for skilled workers. You can find out more about the company at: http://alliedmineral.com
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COURSE
Every August economic development professsionals from across the Northwest converge on Ellensburge to sharpen their skills and learn how to be more effective at their jobs. Here are some highlights from the conference.
Allison Larsen, of TadZo LLC and a Certified Economic Developer stated, “The #1 challenge nationwide is workforce.” The ability of public and private entities to work together will bring about the best results for developing communities and retaining and/or expanding organizations.
Agnes Balassa of Agnes Balassa Solutions from Port Townsend, WA spoke with economic development professionals regarding the workforce economic development connection. Agnes stated in her presentation, “Physical and cultural amenities are key to attracting the talent that will help business prosper.” While the primary role of economic development is to attract talent, her research has shown that employees are looking for the opportunity to grow within the organization. With this said, fewer companies are invested in their workforce to provide career development to employees and while 89% of the workforce think apprenticeship programs could be beneficial, businesses are not implementing these trainings.
LEWIS COUNTY FARM BUREAU AGRICULTURAL TOUR
DeGoede Bulb Farm
The bulb farm is popular in the early spring with people stopping to see the tulips. One fact about Degoede’s that is not well known is that they employ around 100 people year round in contrast to the typically seasonal model of employment that many agricultural producers follow. The agricultural sector’s struggles to fill labor shortages is their biggest issue with few clear solutions. Increasing immigration was one potential solution DeGoede pointed out to help with their labor needs.
The blueberry industry has a number of challenges that they deal with. This includes bird predation and insects. One innovative way that they address the challenge of birds is to use falcons to keep birds from devastating their crop of blueberries. There is an incredible amount of competition in the blueberry market. There are several countries including Chile and Peru that have ventured into the berry market. The entrance of new producers has effected both producers and consumers including the growing Chinese market. It will be interesting to see how the cultivation of blueberries in new areas like Boistfort and Toledo will affect the industry as Lewis County becomes a large blueberry producer.
Newaukum Valley Farm
This tour was particularly interesting because the business model is growing and selling directly to restaurants in Seattle. They manage to sustain their family with the income generated off of 15 acres of organic farm by growing leaks, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables. It was quite amazing, and I hope that they continue to grow their farm and business model. If you have an opportunity checkout their farm to table dinners that they put on. The dinners attract people from as far away as Seattle, Portland, and beyond.
Seeing this great family’s multi-generational operation, particularly their use of automation, was fascinating. The major change automation brought to their family dairy allows them to do things that they were not able to do previously. For example, they are now able to attend their children’s sporting events because the cows no longer need to be milked by hand at 4:30 am and 4:30 pm every day. Lewis County’s 19 organic dairies, including Mallonee Dairy, is something that the whole community should be proud of. You can learn more about the coop that they are a part of by going to www.organicvalley.coop
Depending on the progress of a given recruitment project, we will follow up with them daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Currently we are working with a wood product manufacturer, a mineral manufacturer, several material handling product manufacturers, a beverage company, and many other businesses looking to our area. The total potential number of jobs from these companies numbers up into the several hundreds.