While Jacobsen Salt, Pelican Brewery Company’s Double IPA and Tillamook Cheese have made their way onto grocery store shelves across the country, Tillamook County is home to countless other high-quality food businesses. Over the next two years, Partners for Rural Innovation will leverage a $45,000 grant from Business Oregon’s Rural Opportunity Initiative Grant program to launch three separate initiatives aimed at supporting budding businesses and increasing the profitability of existing ones. One of 11 grant applications awarded from a pool of 41 proposals, it’s a big win for Tillamook County and one that would not have been possible without a commitment to collaboration.
“This is a story of partnership and collaboration among key organizations to further the economic growth of businesses in the county,” said Ross Tomlin, president of Tillamook Bay Community College, in a press release. “Business Oregon’s confidence in our commitment to local culture is what we hoped to accomplish by creating the Partners for Rural Innovation.”
Banking on agritourism
“Agritourism has the potential to increase the profitability of small-scale farms and other food-based operations by helping them diversify their offerings,” says Nan Devlin, director of Visit Tillamook Coast, the region’s destination marketing organization and the lead applicant for the Business Oregon grant.
High-value specialty products, such as wine and flowers, and services, such as farm dinners and classes, can be a huge boost for business and communities. In Tillamook County and elsewhere in the state, demand is coming from both hotels and restaurants that want to offer local food on their menus, and from tourists who want agritourism experiences and destination-branded specialty crops to bring home as souvenirs.
“We are developing Tillamook County and the North Coast as a place of fresh, high quality, sustainably produced products. Yet we consistently hear from farmers, fishers, harvesters and producers that they need help growing their businesses and marketing their products,” says Devlin. “This grant will allow Partners for Rural Innovation to better serve our local businesses while also increasing brand awareness about the Tillamook Coast as a culinary and agritourism destination.”
The Partners for Rural Innovation include Visit Tillamook Coast, Oregon State University Extension Service, Economic Development Council of Tillamook County, Open Campus, Tillamook Bay Community College (TBCC) and the Small Business Development Center. In January 2017, all of these organizations moved into a new home on the campus of TBCC. Known as the Partners for Rural Innovation Center, the partner organizations serve community groups, students, businesses and entrepreneurs a convenient way to connect with resources.
With the recent investment from Business Oregon, Partners for Rural Innovation will spend the next two years working on:
- Relaunching the Recipe to Market program conducted by OSU Extension and the Small Business Development Center. Participants will be able to learn from companies that have successfully taken value-added product to market. Classes cover everything from testing products and financing to marketing and distribution.
- Creating a Tillamook Coast food brand mark. This effort will help increase market awareness of the high quality products grown, caught and harvested on the North Coast, and will be designed to tie into a statewide effort by Travel Oregon and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to create a brand for Oregon-grown foods.
- Conducting a feasibility study on the creation of a food hub or other method to improve distribution of foods, such as fish, meat and produce, between local and regional buyers and sellers.A centrally located food hub or refrigerated delivery truck would allow easy pick-up and delivery of locally grown foods.
The Partners for Rural Innovation will work with Food Roots, Travel Oregon, Rural Development Initiative’s Pasos al Exito program, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Port of Garibaldi and other partners to successfully complete each project. For more information, contact Nan Devlin, 503 842-2672, firstname.lastname@example.org.