Courtesy Oregon Aglink
After just five months on the job, Geoff Horning is stepping down as CEO of Oregon Hazelnut Industries.
Horning, who was hired Sept. 1, 2017, will instead go into private business and is in the final stages of acquiring a full-service association management company based in Portland.
Horning declined to name the company until the deal is completed. He said it was an opportunity he simply could not turn down.
“This is a game-changer for my family’s future,” said Horning, a native Oregonian and graduate of Linfield College.
Prior to joining hazelnut industries, Horning managed trade shows and publications for the Oregon Association of Nurseries. He also spent 11 years directing Oregon Aglink, a nonprofit organization that promotes Oregon agriculture and seeks to bridge the urban-rural divide.
Horning said the hazelnut business is entering an exciting time in Oregon, and experiencing unprecedented growth.
“My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to put my mark on an industry that I think is to explode and be amazing over the next 20 years,” he said.
The Oregon Hazelnut Industry offices are located in Aurora, Ore., including the Hazelnut Marketing Board, the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, the Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and the Associated Oregon Hazelnut Industries.
Former CEO Polly Owen intended to retire when Horning arrived, though she stayed on to help with the transition. She said it is too early to know if they will hire a new replacement.
In the meantime, Owen said the industry is not going to slow down in the least.
“We wish (Horning) well, and we are ready to keep going,” Owen said.
Oregon hazelnut growers have more than doubled their acres over the last seven years, Owen said, thanks in part to research and development of new disease-resistant varieties. The added volume has helped Oregon hazelnuts to be more competitive in the global market.
The overwhelming majority of all U.S. hazelnuts — 99.9 percent, according to Owen — are grown in Oregon.
“We are extremely excited in the industry, and looking forward to having more crop,” she said.