By Mark Fountain
Today, many people do not know where their food comes from. But Tri-City residents can just look down the road and see some of the country’s largest food and beverage manufacturing facilities.
The Pasco-Kennewick-Richland area and its surrounding counties are a major hub of food processing. Local companies make products including french fries, apple juice, frozen fruit and vegetables, and much more. The fertile soil and sunny skies of Eastern Washington provide some of the best growing opportunities on the West Coast.
Food Northwest, my employer, is proud to represent and support the food and beverage industry in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Established in 1914, our trade association’s purpose is to enhance the ability of the industry to deliver wholesome, safe food from the Northwest to the world.
membership has a robust presence in the Tri-City area. Some members you may
recognize include Bolthouse Farms, Kerr, Lamb Weston, Milne, Reser’s, Seneca
Foods, Smucker’s, Tree Top and Twin City Foods.
regional presence is a driving factor in our decision to move our flagship
event, Northwest Food & Beverage World, to Spokane for two years. On Feb.
17-19, 2020, thousands of food processors, equipment manufacturers and service
companies will gather for the largest regional food manufacturing show in the
can expect to see the latest equipment in action, hear expert speakers and
educators, and network with colleagues on and off the show floor.
food and beverage processing industry continues to be a mainstay of
productivity in the Northwest. During the last major recession, food processing
was one of only a few industries that did not experience a downturn. In fact,
industry employment grew by 11 percent between 2008-14. It directly employs
more than 47,000 people in Washington, with more than $2 billion in wages paid
in 2016. Washington’s food industry wages are 1.5 times higher than the
national average, providing family-wage jobs throughout the state.
the industry remains successful, there are challenges our members face every
day. Like many other manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest, our products are
exported outside the region and the country. The current administration’s trade
policies have caused supply chain ripple effects throughout the industry. Not
only is our export market affected, but the cost of inputs to process food,
ranging from metal cans, plastics and equipment, have increased.
of the food supply is always our primary concern. Risks posed by cyberattacks
have amplified the need for comprehensive cybersecurity and emergency response
plans to assure that food remains safe from outside intervention.
a new Food and Drug Administration program, food companies are installing
equipment and procedures to prevent intentional contamination of food.
inability to find skilled workers is a major challenge for the industry. The
decrease in numbers of young people pursuing technical education has led to a
shortage of welders, electricians, mechanics and technicians. Further, the
existing workforce is aging, and skilled workers are retiring. Many of our members experience constant
vacancies that they struggle to fill. In fact, thousands of jobs go unfilled
address this skills gap, Food Northwest now offers two types of scholarships:
one for university students with food industry career goals and another for the
current employees and families of member companies that also covers tuition at
technical and trade schools. This year, we will award 10 scholarships. The
association also is looking to develop partnerships between the food industry
and local school districts, community colleges and state programs to advance
interest in technical educations and food industry careers.
change, sustainability and the environment are major concerns. Food processors
are aggressively taking actions to protect and enhance the environment. We are
proud that as an industry we are on track to meet our goal to reduce energy use
and carbon emissions by 25 percent in 10 years and are proceeding to work
toward another 25 percent reduction. We also are proud that we have been a
national leader in this effort.
Northwest’s Board of Directors selected me as president in March 2019.
Previously, I worked as vice president of operations at Oregon Fruit Products
LLC. I began my career at the former Nestle Potato in Moses Lake and
worked for several other food companies in the Northwest, including J.R.
Simplot, Welch’s and Tree Top. I was born in Eastern Washington and lived in
the Tri-Cities for 30 years. My father owns a farm near the Tri-Cities. I have
a strong connection to the region and am eager to support the food processing
industry in my new role as president.
Thank you for your interest and please let us know how we can help.
Mark Fountain, an Eastern Washington native, is president of Portland-based Food Northwest, a trade association organized to advance the ability of the food industry to produce and deliver wholesome, safe food from the Pacific Northwest to the world.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!