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MEDP Spark - Behind the Scenes of Evergreen Aviation

Jan 14, 2016

MEDP Spark, Volume 1, Issue 1 -- January 2016

This month's guest blogger, Devon Shryock, recently sat down with Jody Christensen, Executive Director for the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, to discuss one of McMinnville's most dramatic events in recent history - the closure of Evergreen Aviation.

D: This story has been unfolding for the last couple of years. Can you share with us how MEDP was involved in the response to the corporate closure?

J: The rumors, murmurs and general shock surrounding the Evergreen Aviation closure have been swirling for two years now. When Evergreen filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in December of 2013, our entire McMinnville community was stunned. The company had a worldwide presence with multiple divisions and was intimately tied to the area. Instead of getting bogged down by the negative press, MEDP recognized an opportunity - we would have high-profile properties on the market soon. We also understood the importance of finding resources for former Evergreen employees. We worked tirelessly with the new trustee and realtors to be the first handshake for any company interested in the vacant Evergreen campus. While we had no business, or interest, in the legal aspect of this project, we strove to ensure the best connections for all interested parties.

D: What was your first reaction to the closure news on Dec. 31, 2013?

J: The reality is that we had been working with Evergreen leadership for some time. We were aware that there would be changes, but we were not privy to the legal actions. Our first reaction to the Chapter 7 filing was to implement a “no response” media policy. I had 47 emails, texts and voicemails requesting comments from outlets like local TV stations, Fox News and the Oregonian. We understood the importance of maintaining confidentiality due to the sensitive nature of the action. Our foremost concern were the employees who were laid off. MEDP partnered with our local Work Source Center to pull together a job fair quickly. It was truly amazing to see our companies come together. Work Source executed the job fair professionally, showing how the McMinnville community steps up to help each other. Our next step was to make contact with the trustee to determine the timeline for the property going on the market.

D: How did MEDP market the property?

J: We worked, and continue to work, with the professional CBRE realtor team. We also promoted the property during our outbound trips to Chicago and California. We submitted the property to the state’s national and international recruitment officers. When someone expresses interest in the property, our job is to represent the McMinnville community and its assets. We have to be ready to answer any question about McMinnville from the permitting process to workforce connections to the median housing prices. Over the course of the last two years, we have toured the facilities with prospects, site consultants and others to introduce them to McMinnville, our region and even our state. To date, we hosted over 500 meetings, 250+ site tours, fielded thousands of emails, spent hundreds of hours collecting data and preparing documents and marketing materials.

D: We know that your work on this project is highly confidential, but can you pull back the curtain to share some interesting tidbits? 

J: Yes, much of what we do is confidential, but we can share a few items. Early on, Ted with CBRE set a tour with a Chinese firm. This was a first for MEDP. We suspected there might be specific business protocol for the meeting. Sure enough, the “rules” are specific about how to present and receive a business card. MEDP now has a Chinese meeting protocol in our files. We also hosted a number of tours for an Amsterdam firm. I even took a call from a Hollywood producer. Having worked in television, it was an exciting conversation. The companies looking at the Evergreen facilities tend to be very innovative, creative and forward-thinking engineers, designers and organizations. Meeting with these businesses reminds me that McMinnville has the ability to attract interesting and pioneering companies. The buildings, community and local government allow McMinnville to compete easily in that environment.

D: You had a lot on your plate. How did you manage the moving parts of this project?

J: MEDP is a partnership. We did not work alone – we rely on community, regional and state partners. We worked with local bankers, officials, attorneys, developers, business leaders, and others to help manage the various details of the wide variety of inquiries. Trust is core to our work. With this projects, it also became extremely evident that we have an incredible network of trust within MEDP resources. Often, I would have to call a partner for counsel or answers. Because of the legal aspect of the project, confidentiality was key. Throughout numerous calls and meetings, our confidence was never broken. Even when we could only ask for vague, hypothetical situations, our partners once again proved to be amazing, reliable resources.

D: I’m curious. Who pays for all the services that MEDP provides?

J: MEDP is a public/private non-profit partnership. We are primarily funded by the City of McMinnville, McMinnville Water and Light, McMinnville Industrial Promotions and the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce. We have a number of businesses and others that invest in our work as well. We are not a membership organization so our partners and investors are essential. Without their support, we would not exist. We are continuing to grow services and programs like the McMinnville WORKS Internship Program and our recruitment efforts with TEAM Oregon. We are looking for more sponsors to help us. If someone wants to learn how they can invest in McMinnville’s future – just give us a call.

D: Final thoughts?

J: Final thoughts? It’s not over yet. Our work continues as we welcome the new businesses to the properties. I will say that this project response has been a true community effort over the past two years. While it was our job at MEDP to represent McMinnville well and market the buildings to our best ability, it would not have been successful without an efficient, business-friendly local government and community leaders.

Three of the seven buildings are under new ownership. The owners are Kit and Kurt Johnston. They are currently renovating the properties in preparation to lease them soon. We expect two more of the buildings will be off the market in the near future. The final building is #3800 – the newest facility with the F-15 out front. It is a beautiful space with full access to the McMinnville Airport. There is quite a bit of interest in it from the aviation, auto, hotelier and wine industries.  

In 2016, there will be new energy on the campus as the properties come back to life. MEDP is ready to help businesses connect to our community!

 

Update (01.15.16)

Kendall Jackson Family Wines purchased two buildings (#3500 and #3600) on the former Evergreen Campus.

See our newest article about the updates along Highway 18 (1.09.17)

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MEDP's monthly newsletter, The MEDP Spark, received a Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council in 2017.

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