The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
As we enjoy the holiday season this year there is a lot to be thankful for here in the Yakima Valley. Our farmers have finished harvest and 2012 looks to be a banner year for most commodities grown in the region. It is nice to have our crops in the barn and to take a well deserved break after a busy harvest season. It is also good to see that prices for apples, grapes, cherries, and other crops are favorable and that our agriculture sector is doing so well.
Our office is thankful that local industry is faring better. We have seen quite a few manufacturers rebound over the past year. Several firms like Amtech, Peninsula Packaging, HF Hauff, and Sun Rype expanded their local footprints and grew payrolls in 2012. We also discovered another handful of manufacturers that are implementing expansion projects in 2013. The trend towards adding equipment, enlarging buildings, and adding jobs is a marked contrast to what this sector has experienced over the last few years.
New Vision is also excited about entrepreneurs and emerging businesses in our Valley. Our office will celebrate the results of our third annual Enterprise Challenge business plan contest this Friday. We have some outstanding young businesses in the contest and know that a number of them will launch successful local enterprises. Contestants from previous years like Jenny Mae's Gluten Free Bakery, Tieton Farms, and Washington Vision Therapy are still doing well as are other great emerging companies like Liberty Bottles and Vitalware. Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Yakima County and a key part of our economic future.
Another bright spot is that lots of prospective companies are visiting Yakima County. Our office has been extraordinarily busy since May hosting out-of-town businesses as search for new factory locations. Paragon Films, an Oklahoma-based plastics manufacturer, has now signaled their plans to start a new operation in Union Gap that will employ 50 people. We expect another company to go public with news about their new facility in the area and we have more hot prospects in the pipeline. Seeing companies visit our community and invest in new facilities is a refreshing change.
Our office is not quite ready to suggest that happy days are here again. We recognize there is still an enormous amount of economic uncertainty out there but we can also discern a pattern of stability and progress here in our Valley. Let's work together in the coming year to keep our thoughts positive and push our local economy forward. We have had a great year and we should relish our region's progress during this holiday season.
*Top photo of Naches River Valley courtesy of Brian Durr