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PMA Education Foundation Looks To Attract And Retain New Industry Talent

We’ve worked hard to try and give PMA’s recently founded education foundation a good start. In Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, we offered the foundation a chance to lay out the rationale for the foundation. It took advantage of that opportunity and we published five articles delineating the basis for the foundation:

May You Live In Interesting Times — July 2007

Workplace Disconnects — August 2007

Finding — And Keeping — Talent — September 2007

Early Exposure Breeds Success — October 2007

Supporting The Foundation — November 2007

The Foundation is already buttressed by impressive contributions:

Current Contributors

Don Harris
Lisa McNeece
Dr. Ed and Anne McLaughlin
Dr. Ron and Cindy Steel
Bryan and Bonnie Silbermann
Steve Junqueiro
Dr. Roberta Cook
Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin
Duane and Toni Eaton
Janet and Richard Erickson
Peter L. Goulet
Mr. and Mrs. Gene Harris

Confirmed contributors as of Oct. 4, 2007

And pressing a campaign to raise $5 to $6 million for the foundation, the campaign is headed up by an aggressive campaign committee:

Leadership: Campaign Committee

Committee Co-Chairs:

Bill Schuler
President and CEO
Castellini Company
Steve Barnard
Mission Produce, Inc.
Steve Junqueiro
Save Mart Supermarkets

Committee Members:

Dan’l Mackey-Almy
DMA Solutions, Inc.

The Foundation has now announced its Board for 2007 — 2008:

The 2007-2008 Board of Directors for the Produce Marketing Association Education Foundation (PMAEF) took office at the foundation’s second annual meeting in October during Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition. Chairman Stephen Barnard, president of Mission Produce, Inc., Oxnard, California, is joined by three officers and 16 directors.

“Our most valuable and unique assets in the produce industry are the people at each organization,” said Chairman Stephen Barnard. “The foundation takes attracting and retaining the best and brightest very seriously — as it is truly an investment in the future of the produce industry. The members of the board are committed to creating programs that highlight career opportunities for students and create awareness of the breadth of careers available.”

The officers include: Vice Chairman William M. Schuler, president and chief executive officer, Castellini Company, Wilder, Kentucky; Secretary/Treasurer Jay Pack, chief executive officer, The Pack Group, Dallas, Texas; and Immediate Past Chair Janet Erickson, executive vice president, purchasing and quality assurance, Del Taco, Inc., Lake Forest, California. Other representatives of the foundation board include:

John Anderson, chairman,
president and chief executive officer,
The Oppenheimer Group,
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Dr. Roberta Cook
cooperative extension specialist,
University of California
Davis, California
Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin
executive vice president of sales and marketing
D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California
Salinas, California
Duane Eaton
senior vice president of association services
Newark, Delaware
Bud Floyd
vice presiden
C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Don Harris
Longmont, Colorado
Gene Harris
senior purchasing manager
Denny’s Corporation
Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Peter Goulet
Pinnacle Sales & Marketing, Inc.
Saco, Maine
Robert Gray
chief executive officer
Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc.
Salinas, Calififornia
Dr. Edward W. McLaughlin
Cornell University
Ithaca,New York
Lisa McNeece
vice president, foodservice and industrial sales
Grimmway Farms
Bakersfield, California
Bryan Silbermann
Jim Smits
group vice president,
merchandising and marketing
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Bruce Taylor
chairman and chief executive officer
Taylor Farms California, Inc.
Salinas, California
Geoff White
vice president of produce
Safeway Stores, Inc.
Pleasanton, California
Timothy York
Markon Cooperative, Inc.
Salinas, California

“The foundation board has achieved so much in its first year, and I’m proud to continue to work with these committed individuals again this year. Not only did we reappoint all of last year’s directors to another term, we also added three new directors who will help us advance our mission and our campaign efforts. I feel fortunate to work alongside these dedicated, generous, and visionary leaders,” said PMAEF executive director, Cindy Seel. “With leaders like these, we’ll be able to maximize our education efforts to ensure a quality talent pool for the industry and continued leadership for our future.”

The new board carries over everyone from the previous board and adds buying-end firepower in the persons of Jim Smits from Supervalu, Geoff White from Safeway and Tim York from Markon.

Although economic uncertainty might slow down some contributions, it is a powerful group and has a good shot of achieving its financial goal.

The bigger challenge actually is to find productive ways to spend the money. The problem is obvious to any economist: If we are talking about hiring and retention, companies have powerful financial incentives to hire and retain the best employees they can. It is hard to imagine that the general industry will ever have a stronger incentive than the specific employer does.

We think there may be two key areas of market failure, if you will, that the foundation could be helpful in:

One is training and education. Here companies might like the employees to have training and education, but the companies fear the employees will either leave, thus precluding the company from getting a return on this investment, or that as they enhance the value of the employee, the more they will have to pay to keep the employee.

As a result, there is probably an underinvestment in training and education. So, either by developing its own programs or subsidizing and facilitating access to programs run by others, the foundation can increase industry wealth and productivity by mitigating this market failure.

It is also true that making careers in produce interesting to students is too uncertain for any individual company. After all, even if a company convinces high schoolers to look at the produce industry for a career, it will only realize a small fraction of those students as employees. So an industry effort reaching out to colleges and universities, DECA clubs in high school, etc., makes sense as a way of introducing new blood into the produce trade.

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