South central Idaho's food processing industry has been growing at a rapid pace over the past few years. It currently employs about 15,750 people with a total annual payroll of approximately $800 million, according to Brent Tolman, regional business specialist in workforce development with the Idaho Department of Labor. But in order to sustain this growth, Idaho needs to figure out how to make the most of the opportunities presented by the burgeoning sector and support the industry.
This was the main reason that the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) held a meeting last week with food industry, agriculture and energy representatives, labor and commerce experts, state lawmakers and academics. According to Jeff Fox, CSI president, there is huge potential for development of the industry, particularly in Idaho's Magic Valley, which is emerging as a major food processing hub, but this would require efforts from many partners.
With collaboration a key factor for achieving results, the establishment of a cross-industry Food Science and Manufacturing Center of Excellence was proposed, with the goal to support the food processing industry in various ways, including grants, training and research. The focus of the center would be to bridge the gaps in resources that challenge the growth of the industry, such as infrastructure and site development, transportation, international investment, operational and process improvements and access to capital, the Capital Press reported.