Agriculture should not be overlooked by economic developers hoping to lure new industry to the Cache Valley, says the dean of the Utah State University College of Agriculture.

Doyle Matthews, who also heads USU's Agricultural Experiment Station, spoke Saturday at the first Cache Economic Development Conference at Sherwood Hills resort.Matthews said agriculture and related processing industries generate more than $2 billion in gross sales in Utah annually and more than $700 million in Cache County.

"Of the 27,000 jobs in Cache County, one of every five either directly or indirectly relates to the manufacture of agricultural products," he said.

Bobbie Coray, director of the Cache Economic Development committee, said agricultural industries play an important role in the group's development strategy.

She said six of the 13 major industrial employers in the county process agricultural products and they have a combined payroll of $50 million a year, she said.

Research at the Experiment Station focuses on the dairy and beef industries, plant physiology, irrigation technology, bio-technology, nutrition and growing foods in space, and garners one federal or private dollar for each state dollar invested, Matthews said.

Coray said that since the economic development committee was established 21/2 years ago, more than 20 new technology-based companies have been launched, several existing businesses have expanded and 2,100 new jobs have been created.

"The per capita income has increased by nearly $1,000 a year, and our unemployment rate is down to 3.7 percent," she said. "We have had over 68 site visits from outside companies looking for relocation, and several of those firms are now finalizing plans to come to Cache County."

County executive Bruce King commended Coray's efforts. "It has all been done on a budget of $70,000, by far the smallest of any similiar committee in the state."