A look back at the launch of MEDP

Jul 31, 2004

The History of MEDP:

MEDP began over 10 years ago with a group called MOREDI. Read the original announcement about the partnership to learn more about why MEDP was founded and all those who contributed to ensure that McMinnville would find economic growth in the coming years. 

McMinnville is MOREDI for business! 

Celia Wheeler - New group sets sights on economic growth

Four years ago, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce embarked on a proactive re-entry into our community's economic development process. We invited McMinnville Industrial Promotions and the city of McMinnville, among others, to join us in crafting a development plan. The process has been challenging and rewarding, and we have only just begun.

Today, it is with great fanfare and much pride that we announce the formation of MOREDI: McMinnville Oregon Economic Development Initiative. MOREDI is a partnership between the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce, McMinnville Industrial Promotions and the city of McMinnville. Each of our three entities plays an important role in economic development efforts in our community. MOREDI brings together each organization's time, talents and resources to work as a team. Our mission is to promote the growth of jobs and business in McMinnville.

Remember 1997? Hewlett-Packard left McMinnville, resulting in a loss of over 200 high-wage jobs. Early in 2000, we lost 200 more jobs with the closure of Pillsbury and the shutdown of two production lines at Diane's Foods. 

In response to its members' concerns about these closures, the chamber began a process to help define its role in meeting the community's need to attract and keep family-wage jobs. With the assistance of seed money from the chamber, and a Community Block grant from the state, matched by private contributions, we sponsored a "key stakeholder" dialogue focusing on how we, as a community, could respond effectively to changing economic conditions and new economic opportunities. 

ECONorthwest, the Eugene consulting firm working with the city at the time, was contracted by the chamber to conduct a survey of chamber members in June and July 2001.  

Two half-day meetings were held to analyze the results of the survey. Participants included more than two dozen members of the community: city and county officials, chamber board members, then-superintendent of schools Elaine Taylor, Linfield President Vivian Bull, Chemeketa Community College Mac campus director John Plett, Alan Hay representing MIP, Patti Webb with the McMinnville Downtown Association and many other members of our local business community. 

The survey results suggested that respondents want McMinnville to grow at a manageable rate, that the city should work to retain existing businesses, that new businesses should not degrade the quality of life or the environment in McMinnville and that various groups should work together to promote economic development that is compatible with the community.  

The analysis of this communitywide dialogue was compiled and published in a report entitled "Recommendations for an Economic Development Vision." The chamber presented the recommendations to the McMinnville City Council in April 2002. In its goal-setting session earlier this year, the city identified economic development as a priority and pledged funding to the MOREDI team. 

A repeating theme throughout the recommendations was the pressing need for a more coordinated effort between the chamber, the city, MIP and other key organizations to address business and workforce development.  

MOREDI was born as a new cooperative effort to provide that coordination.  

Prospective business developers want a clear point of contact with easy access to necessary information. Until now, they have not had a simple or concise procedure for making contacts, determining the available land and buildings, and obtaining current demographic information.  

At times, prospects contact the chamber of commerce, city planning department, McMinnville Industrial Promotions, the Oregon Economic Development Department or individual real estate brokers. Attempts to coordinate efforts have been time-consuming and frustrating for the site selectors, and the information available is often incomplete or outdated. 

Competition is keen for clean industry and businesses employing 100 or fewer high-wage jobs. Other communities have developed slick, streamlined responses to economic development requests. 

MOREDI will meet McMinnville's need to respond quickly with accurate inventories of land, transportation and utilities data, and demographic information.  

We have identified key contacts for each partner. They include board members Kelly McDonald and Cassie Sollars, the chamber president, MIP President David Wiegan and Vice President Carol Granger, and city Planning Director Doug Montgomery. These contacts have agreed to respond jointly within 24 hours to any new business inquiry received. As a group, they will prepare a formal response for each lead. 

Business retention also is important to MOREDI; we recognize the need for a more organized effort to retain our current employers. In just the past few months, we have heard of a number of employers paying family wage jobs that also are facing critical growth or infrastructure issues. The need for a neutral ombudsman to work with businesses to find solutions to business issues before they consider moving outside the community is critical. That's another role MOREDI will fill. 

MOREDI's first project is to develop a website for the greater McMinnville community that will provide an inventory of available land and buildings and a community demographic profile. The website will be a standardized format accessible through MIP, chamber, city and county websites, and would interface with the governor's new economic development website targeted to site selectors. 

Our two-year initial plan includes part-time staff dedicated to recruitment of new business, and retention and expansion of existing business. 

In addition to the city's pledge, the chamber, MIP and Yamhill County have committed funding toward the project.  

This week, MOREDI's letter went out asking for support from the business community at large. Pledges for the first two years' funding already are coming in. McMinnville, known for its public/private partnerships, is proving once again that consensus-building and cooperative efforts are part of what makes our community thrive. This is an exciting time. Smart economic development results in prosperous communities.  

And McMinnville is MOREDI for business! 

Guest writer Celia Wheeler has served at the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce since 1995, as president since 1997. A graduate of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Organization Management, she is on the board of Oregon Chamber Executives. She and her daughter, Anna Williams, now 11, moved to McMinnville in 1992. Her husband, Jerry, is executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber.

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