Seeds of opportunity

Ryan Gajewski

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

As Michigan recognizes March as “Food and Agriculture Month,” there are growing signs the state is well positioned for dramatic growth in the agriculture and food processing industries.

·  PMBC Agriculture Summit a catalyst for state’s agribusinesses; match-making gathering March 14 in Novi
·  March named Food and Agriculture Month
·  Michigan ag and food processing industries poised for growth

Many of the state’s major purchasers and suppliers will explore partnerships at this year’s Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) Agriculture Summit on March 14 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

The matchmaking gathering features an up-close look at the fast-changing agriculture industry, a pillar of the state’s economy. From the UP to the rural landscape of mid-Michigan to the acres of crops and livestock homesteads around the state, farms and food-processing companies generate products and create jobs vital to the state’s $101.2 billion food and agriculture industry. 

“There are increasing opportunities for Michigan businesses in agriculture and food processing,” said PMBC Director Ryan Michael. “A critical ingredient in creating successful and sustainable enterprises is understanding industry trends and building a cost-efficient, profitable supply chain. The building blocks for that model are at the agriculture summit.” 

In addition to the match-making meetings, next Wednesday’s agriculture summit features two speakers:

  • H. Christopher Peterson, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics at Michigan State University. Peterson assisted the launch of nearly 550 ventures resulting in over $370 million of investment and 2,300 new and retained jobs as director of MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio.
  • Tod Pepin, senior vice president of foods merchandising at Grand Rapids-based Meijer Inc., which operates 235 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Pepin oversees Meijer’s locally grown program, which represents an annual economic impact of nearly $100 million.

Since 2011, PMBC summits have brought together purchasers and suppliers in 25 distinct industries, including agriculture, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and energy. The match-making gatherings have facilitated $5.73 billion in revenue for Michigan companies, while creating or retaining 27,941 jobs.

In the past few years, several projects have served as major catalysts to elevate the state’s agriculture and food processing industry, supporting Michigan farmers and positioning businesses for emerging opportunities in the subscription meal delivery service and global markets.

“Michigan’s vast and efficient supply chain and logistics system provides a cost-effective distribution system,” said Jeff Mason, CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, who will be on hand to address summit participants. “From Michigan, farmers and food processing businesses can connect with world markets and have a competitive edge in responding to customer trends.”

Michigan’s agriculture industry is the second most diverse in the nation (after California). There are approximately 51,400 total farms in Michigan; the state leads the nation in the production of 20 different commodities. The state’s top five agricultural exports are processed food products, soybeans and soybean meal, dairy products, feeds and feed grains. Top exporting markets include Canada, Japan, China, Thailand, and Mexico.

Breakthrough projects including Clemens Food Group pork processing plant in Coldwater, Zeeland Farms Services second soybean processing center in Ithaca, and, most recently, the announcement of Foremost Farms’ new milk processing plant in Greenville are diversifying the state’s food-processing industry.

Meanwhile, the state’s forestry industry has been given a major boost from Arauco’s construction of the world’s largest particle-board manufacturing plant in Grayling. The Chilean-based company is investing $325 million and hiring more than 200 employees. 

Any Michigan-based business interested in participating in the PMBC Agriculture Summit should contact Ryan Michael,

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