Local farmers, restaurateurs, and other food business leaders will meet this week at the Tooele Applied Technology College for the area’s first summit on food-related industries.
Representatives from Utah’s Own, a marketing initiative by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, will lead the Friday summit with a presentation on resources available to local food entrepreneurs, said Jed Christenson, director of marketing for the department of agriculture.
The summit will also feature a networking lunch with successful business leaders from across the state.
The purpose of the summit, Christenson said, is to provide small food-related businesses with information regarding resources and opportunities available to them through Utah’s Own and other small business resources in the state.
It is geared toward restaurant owners, caterers, and any local business that produces a food product. But Christenson said he also hopes to reach farmers and ranchers looking for a way to move beyond “cattle and hay” operations and to those who have a dream or an idea for a food-related business.
“If they have an idea, if they have a dream … we can provide them with knowledge about labeling, packaging and marketing,” he said.
Utah’s Own has had a lot of success reaching out to businesses in the Salt Lake area, Christenson said, but the number of rural businesses participating in the initiative is significantly smaller. Tooele, for example, currently has about a half dozen small businesses participating with Utah’s Own, but Christenson said he hopes to see that number increase.
The department of agriculture recently held a similar summit in Box Elder County that attracted more than 70 attendees, Christenson said. Of those who came, 12 ultimately applied to join Utah’s Own.
Though hoping for a similar turnout, Christenson said he was unsure how many small business owners in Tooele County would be interested in this week’s summit. But “if it helps a company grow and creates five or six new jobs in Tooele, then it will be worth it,” he said.
The Utah’s Own brand helps consumers identify products created by small businesses located within the state, Christenson said, and its marketing campaigns help educate consumers about the benefits of buying local products.
When consumers choose a local product, he said, the money stays in the community and allows business leaders to reinvest in jobs and economic growth. Additionally, he said, it provides direct environmental benefits by cutting back on emissions created by shipping product nationally.
“If consumers choose a local product, then that dollar stays in the local community, and the whole community benefits,” Christenson said.
Siting a survey of businesses participating with Utah’s Own, Christenson said the initiative has created an estimated 200 jobs per year in Utah. Growth is expected to continue exponentially as the economy improves, he added.
The summit, which will take place this Friday at 11 a.m. at Tooele Applied Technology College, is free to the public. All interested parties are welcome to attend.