AgriBusiness Council leader works to raise ag profile
Updated: Saturday, January 26, 2013 10:10 AM
By MATTHEW WEAVER
ROSALIA, Wash. -- Through the efforts of Jay Allert and other members of the AgriBusiness Council for Greater Spokane Inc. the area's business leaders have learned more about agriculture and its impact on the region's economy.
"They're aware of ag," he said. "We've gained their respect (for) the significance of the size of the industry and how it contributes."
Allert is chairman of the AgriBusiness Council for Greater Spokane Inc., the city's chamber of commerce. He's quick to share credit for the increase in ag awareness with chamber president Rich Hadley.
Recent activities included a chamber tour of Washington State University's agricultural programs at the Pullman campus and inclusion of agriculture in the organization's annual economic forecast.
According to the council, there are 2,502 farms in Spokane County. Agriculture generates $587 million in annual economic impact and supports 1,576 jobs, making it one of the top employers in the region. The 2007 Census of Agriculture said more than 626,000 acres are in farmland in Spokane County, with the average farm being about 250 acres.
Today, agriculture has a seat at the Greater Spokane Inc. table alongside other Spokane businesses such as health care and higher education. Allert said that helps the industry find support in matters like the Farm Bill, which Congress is debating.
"We're a sophisticated industry -- we don't come across that way, but we are," he said. "For (the public) to have some understanding of why they're able to go to the grocery store and get anything they want at a price that's very reasonable, it gives them confidence across the board, I think."
Working on the council has reawakened a passion for agriculture in Allert, who is president of the Aslin-Finch Feed and Pet Supply chain of eight stores in three states.
Allert has been AgriBusiness Council chairman for roughly four years, and plans to continue for several more.
He got involved at a time when membership was declining. He saw a need to adapt and change the mission to raise awareness.
"I wanted agriculture to enjoy the prestige I felt it deserved in the business community," Allert said.
Hadley said Allert is a hard worker, rolling up his sleeves for the council even as he runs Aslin-Finch in the midst of growth.
"It's a really good example of, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person," Hadley said. "We were looking for someone in an agribusiness who had a vision for how we could be more impactful."
Allert stepped in with a lot of energy, Hadley said.
"It's great when you can build around a leader who has passion and a vision," he said. Hadley credits Allert with helping to recruit other agribusinesses to the council's public policy work.
"He's been a great evangelist, communicating the opportunity we have by making agribusiness more of a critical element inside of Greater Spokane Incorporated," Hadley said.
Allert brings his enthusiasm for agriculture home. He lives on his family farm, raising 37 cows, while his brother is a fourth-generation wheat farmer.
"I come home and feed cows in the middle of the night in a snow storm, and I love it," he said. "It's my break from what I do during the day. It's just in my blood."
Title: Chairman of AgriBusiness Council, Greater Spokane Inc.; president, Aslin-Finch Feed and Pet Supply
Current home: Rosalia, Wash.
Education: Washington State University, bachelor of science in agricultural economics
Family: Son, 18, and daughter, 21
Websites: www.greaterspokane.org/agribusiness.html www.aslin-finch.com