CORVALLIS - Northwest food innovators now have an efficient resource to help them develop, promote, export or package new agricultural products. Dedication ceremonies are scheduled for May 13 at the new Food Innovation Center in downtown Portland at 1200 N.W. Naito Parkway.

The Food Innovation Center represents more than a decade of effort by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The result is a 33,160-square-foot complex that concentrates some services and expands others necessary to launching new Northwest food products.

Tours begin at 9 a.m. and will continue after the formal dedication, which begins at 10:30 a.m.

Among the dignitaries expected to attend the ceremony are Gov. John Kitzhaber, former U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, Portland Mayor Vera Katz, OSU President Paul Risser, Phil Ward, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the ODA's former director, Bruce Andrews.

Thayne Dutson, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, is the scheduled emcee for the dedication ceremony for invited guests. He said the center will benefit not only the agricultural industry, but the entire region.

"If you look at the agricultural segment of the economy, it is a major portion of the economy," Dutson said. "A good portion of that now is being sold raw or unprocessed. If we can take those products and add value (through additional processing), we should be able to get more value for Oregon citizens out of the available, land, water, sunlight and financial resources."

By locating the Food Innovation Center in Portland, resources from OSU and the Oregon Department of Agriculture now are closer to trade and marketing sites. Most of the services of the center will be provided on a contract basis.

For example, the ODA will headquarter its trade and promotional program, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Division, at the Food Innovation Center. The ODA's regulatory laboratory will be in the new building, according to Ward.

"We believe the opportunity to co-locate two of our important programs with OSU, and the other exciting functions of the Food Innovation Center, not only makes a lot of sense but will further strengthen the partnerships between ODA, OSU and food industry in general," Ward said.

ODA's Export Services Center, which is the official food customs laboratory for Japan, Korea and Taiwan, is just across the street in the Albers Mills building.

OSU will expand its Sensory Testing Laboratory where new products can be tested for appearance, taste, scent, texture and other factors that influence consumer choice. OSU packaging research will help solve such packaging problems as how a product will be shipped, product stability, storage, weight and shelf life. The marketing research program will provide information about trade issues facing food processing industries.

Although the building soon will open for business, some work remains to be done before it can be fully operational. The search continues for a director and a board of advisers from the food and agriculture industry. The quest also continues for more grants and funding to launch food innovation projects.

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Robert Witters, 541-737-5816