Last year, one Minnesota food processor added 10 new jobs to rural Minnesota; it expects to add 20 more this year as its markets grow. Another processor, which handles thousands of tons of peas and pea fiber, has created nearly 10 new jobs and expects to contract up to 8,000 acres of local production in 2003. Still another has developed an innovative technology that could revolutionize meat processing in the United States and help rural processors increase meat profits.

These companies have four letters in common: AURI. Each one points to AURI as a key contributor to its success. They demonstrate precisely why AURI was established as an independent nonprofit corporation nearly 15 years ago — to improve rural Minnesota’s economy by developing new uses and markets for the state’s agricultural commodities. These businesses are creating rural opportunities in part because of AURI’s help.

Minnesota still relies heavily on agriculture for economic growth. State economic studies show agriculture is the second-largest economic sector and employer, accounting for 16 percent of all jobs and more than 25 percent of rural jobs. Think that is all low-paying production work? Think again. Over 75 percent of all agricultural jobs are off the farm — in processing, marketing, distribution.

AURI clients have told us that over the past biennium they have created nearly 300 new jobs, invested over $100 million and processed countless quantities of raw commodities into higher-value products as a direct result of AURI’s assistance. AURI has directly impacted at least 14,000 Minnesota farmers.

AURI’s assistance is hands-on. We are with start-up businesses on the production floor, fine-tuning processes. We are with them in our labs: enhancing products, developing new opportunities and helping them meet emerging markets. In short, we help Minnesota businesses just where help is sorely needed.

AURI is a leader in value-added agriculture, both an important resource for Minnesota and a model for other states. In the past weeks, groups from as far away as Saskatchewan and as close as Wisconsin have sought help with developing organizations like AURI. They, like many others, recognize value-added agriculture’s importance to rural economies.

They want what Minnesota has.