CWU News

CWU economic conference to spotlight hay and potato industries

2017 CWU College of Business Economic Outlook Conference brpchureTrends, challenges, and opportunities in Washington’s hay and potato industries will be the discussion topics at the Central Washington University Economic Outlook Conference 2017, presented by the College of Business (CB). The Sam I. Kobata and Sons Foundation, based in Moses Lake, is the conference’s lead sponsor.

“Each year, our conference focuses on industries and companies that are dominant economic drivers within Washington’s central corridor,” said Kathryn Martell, CB dean. “The last three conferences have focused on the agriculture industry and, with this year’s focus on potatoes and hay, we are expanding the scope beyond fruit.”

While apples are the state’s top cash crop, potatoes rank second, contributing more than $4.5 billion annually to the state’s economy and providing employment to in excess of 23,000 workers. Meanwhile, hay is the state’s fifth largest economic agriculture commodity. In addition, hay is vital to production of the fourth largest commodity, milk, and the sixth biggest, cattle.

The conference will be held Tuesday, February 28, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., in Sue Lombard Hall, on the university’s Ellensburg campus. It is designed for private sector managers, government officials, and other economic development professionals.

“This is great event where we can serve our community by bringing great industry speakers to Ellensburg and encourage engagement between industry, government, researchers, and students in the College of Business,” Martell added.

Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, will open the conference, when he presents “An Overview to Growth in Washington Agriculture.”

Other featured presentations and panel speakers will include:
•       Matt Harris, assistant executive director for the Washington State Potato Commission, on “Opportunities for Growth in Washington’s Potato Industry”;
•       John Szczepanski, director, US Forage Export Council, National Hay Association, “U.S. forage exports, including current and emerging markets, trends and challenges”; and,
•       John Toaspern, chief marketing officer, Potatoes USA, “Global Demand for US Potatoes and Products”; and
•       Blaine Calaway, vice president of Business Development, Calaway Trading, and Bob Haberman, partner and owner, No. 9 Hay Trading, LLC, “Management discuss the growth opportunities in Washington’s forage industry”

John Creighton, Port of Seattle commissioner-at-large, will conclude this year’s event with the luncheon keynote address on “The Port's role in economic growth.”


Registration is available now.


Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,


February 6, 2017