Business Perspectives 2014 Breakfast

Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, speaks during the Business Perspectives 2014 breakfast Friday, April 25, 2014 at Peach Tree Golf & Country Club.

More people travel to California than anywhere else in the U.S., and a large portion of them come for the foods and wines, the state's director of tourism said Friday in Linda.

That's good news for Yuba County foothills ag producers trying to find a foothold in the state's renowned food and wine industry.

"Our job is to get them to California," Caroline Beteta told a gathering at the Peach Tree Golf & Country Club. "You guys can fight over them after that."

Beteta was the keynote speaker at the annual Perspectives breakfast put on by Yuba County's economic development program. The annual event at the Peach Tree Golf & Country Club is designed to highlight economic development in the county.

Beteta, president of the state travel and tourism commission, said the state brings in $112.8 billion in travel-related consumer spending. And the commission spends $28.5 billion a year in promoting the state's agri-tourism, she said, the largest share of any one segment of promotion efforts.

"You are right in the middle of that," Beteta said.

But, she said, it will be up to the locals to work to bring some of those tourist dollars to Yuba-Sutter.

"What was good about what she said is when visitors come to California, they (state tourism commission) are leading with the culinary side," said Steven Dambeck, director of visitor services for the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce. "They are saying, come have the food and wine."

Beteta's comments come when, Dambeck said, Yuba County is the most active player in the Sacramento region's effort to promote the national Farm to Fork program. It also comes when both wine and olive oil industries in Yuba County are starting to gain notice.

"Our job is to get the word out that Yuba-Sutter should be on your list when you visit California," Dambeck said.

Beteta said the state's varied and quality cuisine is one of the big attractions for those coming to California.

"We want to make farmers the rock stars," she said. "People are really interested in the source. That's what it's all about.

"Foodies will pick their destination on the basis of where the food is grown."

Soper-Wheeler Co. a champion

Strawberry Valley-based Soper-Wheeler Co. has been selected as this year's Champion of Yuba County during the Perspectives 2014 breakfast to promote economic development in the county.

The family-owned, global lumber company received the honor at the annual Perspectives event organized by the county's economic development program.

Soper-Wheeler owns and runs lumber operations on 100,000 acres in the state, including 21,000 acres in Yuba County. It has planted, grown and harvested trees out of its foothills headquarters for 110 years.

Paul Kruger, president of Soper-Wheeler, outlined the changing face of the timber industry during a presentation at the breakfast event. He said the company has been forced to diversify and is now involved in businesses ranging from cattle grazing to cell towers to small-scale residential developments.

In addition, the company has moved to exporting more lumber outside the state and to the world. Paul Violett, Soper-Wheeler vice-president, said that 15 percent of the company's sales volume is to China.

Kruger said the company has also increased its long-term investment, most notably in the New Zealand Redwood Co.

"The regulation process is quite a bit different there," he said, after earlier noting a long list of state and federal regulatory agencies his company has to deal with. "You get permission to harvest and they say 'go.'"

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