N.C. Food Manufacturing Task Force takes shape

Seated around a large table anchored by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, members of the state’s new Food Manufacturing Task Force convened for the first time on June 18. The task force, created by executive order this spring, is made up of 30 representatives of all aspects of food manufacturing, from farming to transportation to economic development.

CALS Dean Richard Linton will chair the task force. N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, N.C. Lt. Governor Dan Forest and N.C. Secretary of Commerce John Skvarla also will provide leadership.

“We have a goal to expand the economic impact of agriculture and agribusiness in North Carolina to $100 billion by the year 2020,” Linton said during the meeting. “Food manufacturing is part of the solution to get us there.”

In 2014 the North Carolina General Assembly funded the North Carolina Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative to diversify and add value to agricultural-based businesses through food processing. An economic feasibility study led by the College and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services revealed that North Carolina has a significant opportunity to catalyze food processing, manufacturing and industrial development statewide. The anticipated economic impact of the recommendations in the study is nearly 38,000 jobs and an increased economic output of $10 billion.

“This state’s economy is built upon those industries that make things, that innovate things, that build things, that produce things and that grow things,” McCrory said. “And I firmly believe as we continue to recover from this recession that we’re going to still be very dependent upon those industries to create the jobs and grow the economy of North Carolina. I’m proud of the manufacturing and agriculture industry that’s been an important part of our past, present, and it will be a very important part of our future.”

The Food Manufacturing Task Force will focus on:

– developing a strategic business plan to leverage existing activities in food processing and manufacturing;

– establishing a statewide food processing and manufacturing organization, directory and database;

– creating a plan to develop a proactive industrial recruitment campaign for new business development;

– and planning to foster the growth of food manufacturing entrepreneurial endeavors, enhance development of innovative food products and processes and provide sector-specific regulatory training and outreach.

“Because we grow so many products, North Carolina is a great supplier of ingredients, so we have the raw products needed to create value-added products,” Linton said. “Value-added products provide great value to our economy. For instance, you get a lot more financially from a processed can of string beans than you do by the string beans alone. Value-added products are much more profitable, and the food processing step is what adds that financial value. And that financial value can help our state grow from $78 billion to the goal of $100 billion by 2020.”

– S. Stanard