AgPlus Consortium Hits A Home Run

On March 2nd and 3rd Valley Vision trucked down Highway 99 (and saw beautiful wildflower blooms along the way!) to Fresno, California.

As you may know, the Central Valley – 28 counties from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south – was designated as an Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) region by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Regional partners formed the Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium (AgPlus) to implement the region’s IMCP strategy for accelerating the growth of manufacturing in the Valley.

The Central Valley is one of only four food and beverage manufacturing-related IMCP regions in the nation, out of 24 IMCP regions overall. The AgPlus Consortium is led by Valley Vision, the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State, the Center for Economic Development at Chico State, and the Central Sierra Economic Development District. Through IMCP, the Valley benefits from proactive technical assistance from federal points of contact, access to a national learning network, and preferential consideration for federal economic development funding opportunities. IMCP is a big deal for the region and will result in a strengthened food and beverage manufacturing ecosystem throughout the entire supply chain – from production and processing, to aggregation, packaging and distribution.

Wednesday, March 2:

Evan Schmidt, Project Leader, spent March 2nd meeting with AgPlus partners from Fresno and Chico to host Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration (EDA). Assistant Secretary Williams, along with EDA’s Breelyn S. Pete, Director of Public Affairs, and Julie Wenah, Counselor and Policy Advisor and lead for the IMCP program, was visiting the area because he was a keynote speaker at the 2016 San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Summit the following day. He is charged with leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the global economy. The AgPlus team briefed Assistant Secretary Williams on the efforts of the AgPlus Consortium. Speaking for the Sacramento Capital region, Evan described how Valley Vision is proactively working with partners to develop projects and advance the goals of AgPlus, including:

  • Creating a workforce pipeline
  • Developing our innovation ecosystem
  • Finding and leveraging capital, including for projects such as food processing incubators
  • Supporting infrastructure, especially the development of a food hub network and SACOG’s RUCS planning tools, and the overall supply chain

The AgPlus team described the value of the national network and discussed the catalyzing influence of the IMCP designation. We are working hard with regional partners to maximize the value of the AgPlus designation. Assistant Secretary Williams was pleased to learn about the dynamic work going on in the Valley and is looking forward to continuing to support the AgPlus team!

“Central Valley AgPlus is a prime example of a community that understood the importance of regional collaboration prior to the IMCP designation. We are happy to have you as a part of our 24 and look forward to continued collaboration in the coming months and beyond.”

Julie Wenah, Counselor and Policy Advisor at the Economic Development Administration


Thursday, March 3

On March 3rd, Adrian Rehn, Project Associate, attended the 2016 San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Summit at the Fresno Convention Center. As mentioned, Assistant Secretary Williams was a keynote speaker along with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, both of whom recognized the significance of the IMCP designation to both the manufacturing ecosystem and the greater economy of the Central Valley. That was only the beginning, as IMCP was the talk of the day at the summit. The AgPlus booth was buzzing with stakeholders seeking out information and offering to assist in implementing the AgPlus strategy. The interactive breakout sessions were a hit – the diverse array of topics included 3D printing, cultivating leadership, export logistics, automation, and much more, also with a strong IMCP focus. The event ended with the auctioning off of a 3D printer and some other goodies!

But that’s not all:

In other AgPlus news, in late February Karmjot Grewal from Fresno State and Mary Kimball, Director of the Center for Land-Based Learning and co-lead for the AgPlus Workforce work group, presented on AgPlus workforce strategies at the California League of Food Processors (CLFP) Annual Expo, held annually at the Sacramento Convention Center. The AgPlus team had a chance to see food processing innovations in action and on display! Thanks to CLFP CEO Rob Neenan, a Workforce team member, for providing this opportunity.

Also in late February, Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly presented on AgPlus and our Next Economy workforce cluster project (powered by JPMorgan Chase and Co.) at the Northern California Manufacturing Summit. The Summit was co-sponsored by the city of Sacramento, Placer County, and many local partners along with the Coalition for a Prosperous America. While the summit focused largely on national trade and tax policy issues, investing in our workforce and leveraging our IMCP designation are ways we can directly strengthen our manufacturing companies and the regional economy. See the blog by Gino DiCaro, California Manufacturing and Technology Association, on the Advanced Manufacturing Cluster Report released last month by Valley Vision along with the Los Rios Center of Excellence and the Burris Service Group.

Next steps:

AgPlus Consortium representatives will be in Washington, D.C. in early April connecting with our federal agency partners, promoting our region, sharing best practices, and learning about new funding opportunities at the 2016 National EDA Conference. The Conference will be immediately followed by the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual Cap-to-Cap trip, where AgPlus will be a priority issue carried by the Metro Chamber’s Food and Agriculture Committee. We’ll have a lot more to report in April!


Trish Kelly is Senior Vice President of Valley Vision, working across the Next Economy, Slingshot, broadband and food system portfolios.

Evan Schmidt is a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the Cap-and-Trade, RICO, Slingshot and Next Economy portfolios.

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Associate working in the food system, broadband, Village Square and communications portfolios.

From left: Dan Ripke, Director, Center for Economic Development at Chico State; Julie Wenah, Counselor and Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration; Assistant Secretary Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Economic Development Administration; Michael Suplita, Associate Director of Research, Center for Economic Development at Chico State; Mike Dozier, Executive Director, Office of Community & Economic Development at Fresno State; Malinda Matson, Economic Development Representative, Northern and Coastal California at the Economic Development Administration; Evan Schmidt, Project Leader at Valley Vision; Wilfred Marshall, Economic Development Representative, Southern and Central California at the Economic Development Administration; Karmjot Grewal, Industrial Development Manager, Office of Community & Economic Development at Fresno State; Breelyn Peete, Director of Public Affairs, Economic Development Administration;

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