PORTLAND - U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, Gov. John Kitzhaber, Portland Mayor Vera Katz and other dignitaries will speak Thursday, Oct. 31, at the groundbreaking for a value-added food and agriculture complex in Portland that is expected to give Oregon and other Northwest states an economic boost.

The planned twin buildings, a public-private partnership, will be at 1201 N.W. Naito Parkway across from Albers Mill, which houses several agricultural offices and facilities.

One building will be a two-level, 33,000-square-foot Food Innovation Center operated by the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The other facility will be a five-story, 100,000-square-foot building called the Oregon Agriculture Center owned by the H. Naito Corporation of Portland.

"The OSU-ODA Food Innovation Center will provide technical assistance to Pacific Northwest firms that manufacture, package and market food products," said Thayne R. Dutson, director of OSU's Agricultural Experiment Station.

"Our ultimate goal is to realize the full economic potential of Oregon's agriculture," added Bruce Andrews, ODA director. "We hope to do this by targeting food products to individual markets around the world - packaging and altering them to fulfill customer needs."

The Oregon Agriculture Center will provide office space to agriculture-related businesses and other enterprises, according to Sam Naito, chief executive officer of the H. Naito Corporation. Plans for the center were initiated by the firm's former president, Bill Naito, who died in May.

"We're excited about the way this will join together public and private Oregon food industry scientists, processors, packagers and marketers in a project strategically located to address Pacific Northwest business, shipping and Pacific Rim commerce," said Sam Naito.

The Portland Development Commission, a city agency that works with urban development, organized the public-private partnership.

"The groundbreaking represents construction of the first major office development on what was once abandoned railyards," said Jan Burreson, the development commission's executive director.

"With new housing under construction and the start of these two centers, we are seeing key elements of the River District Plan become reality, bringing jobs and vitality to the area," Burreson added.

Along with Hatfield, Kitzhaber and Katz, speakers at the 10 a.m. groundbreaking are expected to include U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Furse, Sam Naito, OSU's Dutson and ODA's Andrews.

The two-level Food Innovation Center will cost about $8 million and will be funded jointly by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and matching funds from OSU and private donors. Hatfield helped secure federal funds for the center. Completion and occupancy are scheduled for December 1997.

In the Food Innovation Center, OSU will do research on packaging, sensory analysis of foods and marketing research.

ODA will maintain food analysis laboratories and an overseas marketing information resource in the center. According to Andrews, this will allow OSU and ODA to offer the food industry research, regulatory and information services from a single location in the heart of Oregon's busiest industrial-commercial center.

Oregon is lagging behind the national average in adding value to the raw agricultural products grown here annually, officials say.

According to Jim Cornelius, an OSU agricultural economist, over the last 10 years processing has added about 60 percent to the farm-gate value of Oregon's crops.

"But nationwide, the average is 70 percent," said Cornelius. "In theory, that means that by coming up to the national average we would add 10 percent in value to the $3.1 billion worth of crops that pass through our farm gates. That's $310 million a year."

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Thayne Dutson, 541-737-2331