Elconin Chosen To Lead Lane County Food And Beverage Sector Strategies

Lane County economic development leaders have solidified their commitment to supporting the food and beverage industry by hiring RAIN Eugene Mentor in Residence, Micah Elconin to lead Lane County Food and Beverage Sector Strategies.

Why Lane County Needs Food and Beverage Sector Strategy

The Food and Beverage manufacturing industry has a rich history in Lane County. Numerous companies have gotten their start in Lane county, growing to become industry leaders locally and nationwide. As of 2015, Lane County was home to over 138 food and beverage companies that generate over a billion dollars annually while employing over 3,300 people. The continued growth of the local food and beverage industries are providing more and more jobs every year for Lane County residents.  

Lane County has proven to be a good place for food and beverage manufacturers to grow. Many know breweries like Ninkasi and Oakshire enjoy abundant clean, great tasting water from our local rivers. Lane County is also a dairy and dairy-alternative products mecca with Springfield Creamery (Nancy’s Yogurt), Bliss Unlimited (makers of Coconut Bliss), Oregon Ice Cream (makers of Aldens, Julies, and Cascade Glacier) and So Delicious all hailing from the area.  Lane County is also home to many cereal and granola producers including Wildtime Foods (Grizzlies brand) and Attune Foods (makers of Uncle Sam, Erewhon, and Peace Cereals just to name a few). These manufacturers are supported by strong supply chain partners like SnoTemp Cold Storage, which offers 725,000 square feet of cold storage just off the I5 and best in class distributors like Glory Bee Foods, Hummingbird Wholesale and Organically Grown Company.

There are also many rising stars in the region as well. Young companies are gaining traction quickly by producing products targeting specific needs in the market. Real Live Foods produces wholesome fresh brown rice sushi rolls and collard wraps utilizing premium locally sourced ingredients.  Combining the convenience of an energy bar with the nutrition of a real meal, it is no wonder that this company is growing quickly.  Elegant Elephant Baking Corp produces superior gluten free breads and baked goods that surpass similar products on the market. Young Mountain Tea is building a new model for tea by connecting remote Himalayan communities to Western resources and people.  They offer one-of-kind teas sourced from small family farms.

How We Are Supporting The Food & Beverage Sector In Lane County

Working with leaders from over 20 companies in the region, Elconin is spearheading projects that will solidify Lane’s position as a food and beverage manufacturing hub. His work will build on the regional ecosystem that is already generating momentum for the industry.  

Food and beverage manufacturing is a capital-intensive industry with most companies requiring outside financing to scale. Numerous new and growing companies have benefitted from the hard work of Community LendingWorks (CLW). Since the launch of the organization in 2012, CLW has provided over $1mm in early stage debt financing to F&B companies through over 50 loans.  Of course, these successful early-stage loans have set the stage for companies to work with traditional lenders as they seek out additional capital for continued growth. Elconin hopes to build one CLWs work and develop additional early stage debt financing opportunities for businesses.  

Talent is necessary for any industry to blossom and Lane County educators understand that food and beverage is a viable career path for their students. As an example, Lundquist College of Business will be offering food and beverage focused business courses beginning Spring 2018 adding to the growing Food Studies program at the University of Oregon. Elconin is working to connect UO and Lane Community College Students with relevant work-study opportunities in the local food and beverage industry.  

Food and beverage companies also rely on significant amounts of water and power to produce products. Eugene Water and Electric Board have developed a number of programs to support growing manufacturing programs by smoothing utility costs. The Business Growth and Retention Program includes rebates and loans for expansion projects. Elconin is working with EWEB to ensure that all food and beverage businesses in the region are taking advantage of these programs.  

One of the industry’s goals is to develop shared resources to attract, retain and grow local businesses. Elconin is in the midst of conducting an asset assessment for the region and will be brokering connections and/or begin scoping out more specific projects to strengthen regional assets.  

Genesis Of The Lane County Sector Strategy Team

The Lane County Sector Strategy Team (LCSST) convened for the first time in November 2014. The team of regional workforce development, economic development, and city and business leaders is focused on economic and workforce development for Lane County, Oregon. The LCSST is responsible for making decisions together about how to better support critical industries in Lane County, including forming sector partnerships targeting specific industries.

Using local labor market data, the LCSST chose to focus attention first on the Tech Sector.  Tech Sector Strategies was launched in 2015 led by Technology Association of Oregon and has achieved much success. Sector Strategies has now turned it’s attention to the Food and Beverage leveraging the work of The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. An RFP went out Spring of 2017 for an entity to lead continued efforts. Micah Elconin of Season to Taste Consulting earned the project and beginning in July 2017 has taken on the role of Food And Beverage Sector Strategist.  Elconin will lead the coordination of projects defined by industry leaders.  Elconin’s work is funded by Lane Workforce Partnership, Lane County, Eugene Chamber of Commerce, EWEB, and Lane Community College.