Meet Gary Ash - Grant County EDC Past President

Posted on Jul 24, 2015

Gary Ash - Photo by Lynn Townsend

"They bring knowledge to business and information, which is good," Gary Ash says of the Grant County Economic Development Council. Ash, General Manager at National Frozen Foods in Moses Lake, is a past president of the EDC and a current board member.

Now 62 years old, Ash is originally from the Mount Vernon area of Skagit County in the northwest part of the state. He says Mount Vernon is a smaller and more conservative town than Moses Lake, where he now lives. During high school, he worked at National Frozen Foods in Skagit County. When he attended the University of Washington, he worked summers at National Frozen Foods. He says a summer's work could pay for tuition and housing for a year, back then.

After graduation and getting married, he returned to National Frozen Foods, working in an hourly position in maintenance for two years. Then, the firm offered him a salaried position. "I snapped it up," he says. He worked at the Burlington facility until the year 2000 when it closed and the Moses Lake plant was opened. Plant Manager in Burlington, he took a promotion to General Manager to come to Moses Lake.

"I was not excited to move here," Ash says with a smile, adding he felt like a visitor the first couple of years. But now, Moses Lake is "home" and he has no plans to leave. He has a house on the lake which he enjoys and likes living in a small town.

As the General Manager, Ash is responsible for the Moses Lake processing facility and oversees field operations where the company grows the vegetables it processes. National Frozen Foods has this year, according to Ash, 15,000 acres of peas, 22,000 acres of corn, and about 1,000 each of carrots and lima beans. The fields not only supply the Moses Lake facility but also plants in Quincy and Chehalis.

Ash enjoys the challenges of his job. "It's seasonal," he explains. For six months they are very busy with harvesting and processing. Then for six months they are busy with planning and upgrading. "Every year is different," he says. "Every harvest is different." This year, the heat in early June damaged peas in the fields, lowering quality and yield in the middle of the pea harvesting season. "Peas like 70 - 80 degrees, not ninety-plus," he explains.

"We have the safest food supply in the world," Ash says, but people want their food "pristine" which he adds is virtually impossible and very expensive. Other challenges Ash faces are environmental compliance with waste water disposal and the impending cap-and-trade climate regulations.

The biggest change Ash has seen in Grant County is the "advent of the data centers." "They brought a whole different dimension to the area," he says. Ash explains that Grant County has some "great industries" that produce something and employ "regular people" who don't have to have specialized knowledge. And he'd like to see more of that.

While Ash enjoys Moses Lake, he'd like to see a few more services here. He enjoys riding his bike. "Even on a hot day, you're cool" if you keep moving. "I used to run but now I walk the dog," he says with a smile. He also kayaks on the lake. He is involved in the Boys and Girls Club capital campaign to build a new building, and in Grace Harvest Church. He's been in Rotary for thirty years.

"I just kind of enjoy it and learn what's going on in the community," Ash says of his service on the EDC board. He has attended board meetings since he got to Moses Lake and served as an ex-officio member before joining the Board of Directors five years ago. The EDC once helped him learn of a tax incentive for food processors which saved National Frozen Foods money on an expansion project. "The EDC is a great source of information for new industry and existing industry. And," Ash adds, it works as an "advocate for business."

"The business community has a lot to share and learn," Ash says. The collaboration of the business community facilitated by the EDC is good, he adds. "Learn from your neighbor how to do things and where to get things."

By S. Evan Townsend - Photo By Lynn Townsend