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MEDP Spark - Celebrating Women in McMinnville's Traded Sectors

Mar 14, 2019

MEDP Spark Volume 4, Issue 3 ~ March 2019

Collage of females in the article

Here in the MEDP (McMinnville Economic Development Partnership) office, we have the privilege of working with a diverse group of individuals from traded sectors that never cease to inspire us. We get to serve a population of people who have taken the risk, who are following their dreams, and who are making a positive impact on McMinnville’s economy and the lives of countless others. The traded sectors are full of amazing people and this month, we’re taking the opportunity to look into an underrepresented group within that realm. According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, though women make up almost 50% of the workforce, they make up less than one-third of the manufacturing industry workforce.

March is Women’s History Month, a month with a goal to “amplify women's voices to honor the past, inform the present and inspire the future. The stories we tell deepen our understanding of women’s contributions to America and the world, showing how far women have advanced and how we as a country value equality and the contributions of all our citizens.” We at MEDP want to take this time to highlight some of the impactful women who we see working in the traded sectors every day. Read along to learn about 10 remarkable women helping McMinnville's economy grow.

Jessica Harrington, Director of Continuous Improvement - Betty Lou’s Inc

Jessica HarringtonAt Betty Lou’s Inc, the company was created by family, for family. Betty Carrier originally started the company to give her sons healthy snacks that stayed within their food allergies, something she was unable to find at the grocery store. Today, that feeling of family still persists. According to Jessica Harrington, Director of Continuous Improvement for Betty Lou’s, she was intially attracted to the role because, “Betty Lou’s Inc. has over 250 employees and has a good reputation not only for being a top-notch manufacturing plant, but also for the way the company treats their employees - like family.” Jessica started at Betty Lou’s three and a half years ago as the Human Resources Manager. When her new role became available, she jumped on the opportunity to improve processes she had been dealing with first hand for years.

According to Jessica, “By getting to know the employees and our production line, it allowed me to see the strengths and weaknesses here at the plant.” She uses this knowledge in her role, though it changes day to day, “There are many facets to this position. One day I could be working on a quality process, and the next day I could be making sure that workers are following our safety procedures so they don’t get hurt.” She points to the pride she sees in the various departments as their continuous days without an incident rise. “There have been fewer incidents since the new role of Director of Continuous Improvement was created.”

Jessica also aims to be an inspiration to her children. As a former HR Manager, she says she practices handshakes, work ethics, and interview skills with her children. “It might not make sense to them now, but when they have their first interview, they will be ready.”

Jill Schnepp, Office Manager - eCNC, inc.

Jill SchneppJill Schnepp has been working in manufacturing for over 20 years making everything from “softball bats to computer hard drives and plenty in-between.” She’s been working with eCNC, inc, which specializes in Aero-Space parts but makes a diverse range of customized parts, for seven years. At eCNC, inc she holds the title of Office Manager but has done a range of activities including working with vendors, shipping and receiving, washing and packing finished parts, and more. According to Jill, “I have always enjoyed creating and being able to make things with my hands. I like to think I am pretty crafty in my personal life, and manufacturing is a different way in which I can be involved in doing that, but for my job.”

Jill points to the satisfaction you can feel from seeing your hard work being made into a real, tangible product. Her advice to other women looking to get started in manufacturing is to “Start with a small company and grow with them” adding, “Who wouldn’t want to be a modern-day “Rosie the Riveter”?” She says the best thing about working at eCNC is “The challenges and demands of working with the Aerospace industry, every day I am able to learn something new and feel a part of something bigger. It is really cool knowing I have a hand in making parts that are going to be used in a rescue helicopter, or maybe even in Air Force One.”

Lisa Allen, Head Brewer - Heater Allen Brewing

Lisa AllenHeater Allen Brewing has created a legacy of award-winning pilsner. Opening in 2007, Heater Allen was early to the arrival of the craft brewing scene and has built a legacy both in beer and family. The owner, Rick Allen, works with his daughter and Head Brewer, Lisa Allen, to continually improve the lagers, ales, and beers Heater Allen is known for. Lisa started with the company in 2009 “I started as many brewers do, cleaning kegs, then worked my way up to doing most roles within the brewery including sales and delivery. In 2017, I moved to the Head Brewer position taking on all cellar/brewing duties including recipe development and scheduling.”

Taking on the role also meant approaching opportunities in a different way “I think any women looking to get into a career in a male-dominated field needs to know there will be challenges, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do it. You do not have to do things the same way men do, if you are unable to or find something difficult, don’t be discouraged, there are a number of different methods to complete the same job.” She also continually learns from others, “I have learned that there are a lot of ways to make good beer. Many breweries do things differently and I find that it’s good to have an open mind and learn from your peers.”

Deanna Benson, HR Manager - Meggitt Polymers & Composites

Deanna BensonDeanna Benson has spent time working in a lot of different types of organizations. From the government to higher education, to private companies, non-profits and more. She’s also worked for a lot of different sectors including healthcare, operations management, and more. Through all of this Deanna has found a love for manufacturing saying, “Manufacturing is truly an incredible industry. It’s challenging and interesting and it’s an opportunity to be a part of something that makes a difference.” In her current role as the HR Manager at Meggitt Polymers & Composites, Deanna sees the difference her company has in Yamhill County alone, “We currently have 483 employees and we’re looking to add another 60. This has a huge impact on our local economy.”

To get more women interested in manufacturing, Deanna recommends “Reaching out to where women are and creating excitement around the industry.” This includes where professionals congregate, at women’s engineering functions, and more. When asked what advice she would give a woman looking to work in a similar industry she said, “Don’t be afraid to talk about what skills you bring to the table.”

Heather Harris, President/Owner - NW Rapid Manufacturing

Heather HarrisHeather Harris never expected to be the President and Owner of a 3D printing company when she was younger, but today she finds herself overseeing all of the operations, finding solutions to production flow problems, troubleshooting, and running a small team at NW Rapid Manufacturing. When asked about her favorite part of the job she replies instantly, “The people. I love the people I work with and employ.” Making a company that recognizes that people have families and lives outside of work was a priority for Heather, “Caring about your employees is not a detriment to your business. It matters.”

In this same vein, Heather continually shows she cares about her community, using her resources at NW Rapid to create a positive impact at local schools, as a supporter of CASA, and by hiring young workers. When asked what advice she would give women looking to enter a similar field she simply states, “Don’t be invisible, even when you’re treated as if you should be.” With Heather at the helm, NW Rapid is continuing to grow. The company will be moving into newly constructed buildings by the end of the year near their sister company, Northwest UAV.

Chantelle Sims, Project Manager - NW Rapid Manufacturing

Chantelle SimsChantelle Sims started her career in manufacturing 5 years ago, starting at NW Rapid just 10 days after graduating from the Mechanical Engineering Tech program at Portland Community College. When she started, “The company was going through numerous changes, so I just jumped in wherever I was needed. This was helpful to me as I learned a lot about how each job in the company contributes, and as a small company no one wears just one hat.” Currently, Chantelle serves in a Sales and Engineering role as a Project Manager where “I shepherd projects along, interface with clients throughout the sales process, and do a lot of client educations, which I relish.”

She contributes part of her success to the mentors she has had saying, “I think one thing that stops many women is a lack of belief in themselves. I had mentors - men and women - every step of the way who poured belief into me and gave me the confidence to seek a position in manufacturing.” One thing she keeps in mind working in a fast-paced industry, “If you are a professional and strive for excellence in your career, people will respect you.”

Melissa Summerfield, Human Relations Manager - Organic Valley

Melissa SummerfieldAs the Human Relations Manager at Organic Valley, Melissa Summerfield consistently works to help people, “feel really empowered to do their jobs and to feel good about what they are accomplishing. Every person is making a difference coming into work.” Luckily, at Organic Valley, the company strives to “help people be the best person they can be.” Melissa’s job includes training, onboarding, talent management, hiring, safety standards, creating a positive work environment, and so much more. She has worked for the company for the past 12 years, first at the headquarters in Wisconsin, and now, at their newest facility in McMinnville.

Working at the company for 12 years, and now as the Human Relations Manager, Melissa has learned a lot about working with people, “I’ve learned both the soft skills and the hard skills. From operation changes and the processes of business to relating to people. Sometimes there’s not a right or wrong way. Instead, you have to adjust to people.” She also states, “You learn from your mistakes, and that’s okay. Every day is a learning journey. I work for a super awesome cooperative that is a leading brand, and I have so much pride in that.”

When asked what makes Organic Valley a great working environment she lists perks like free Organic Valley food, massages, reimbursement for wellness activities, and more, but in the end, it comes down to the people, “We have the cream of the crop.”

Remy Drabkin, Owner - Remy Wines

Remy DrabkinIt seemed that Remy Drabkin was destined to be a winemaker, “I’m a McMinnville native, I’ve lived here almost my entire life. My mom worked at Nick’s Italian Cafe, where all of the early winemakers hung out, and I knew at 8 years old that I wanted to be a winemaker.” Remy started working in wine when she was just 14, and worked in many capacities, with growing responsibilities. At 25, she started Remy Wines, her own wine label building a niche creating old world style wines in the Willamette Valley. “Every day has its new challenges, and they’ve allowed me to grow as an individual. I’ve learned not just to lead, but to build teams and networks.” It helps that in McMinnville, there’s “always been the sense that you can rely on your neighbors.”

To aspiring winemakers, Remy suggests spending time learning, “The more time you spend working with others, the more personal growth you can experience.” With over 20 vintages under her belt, Remy has also learned how to keep a better balance. She’s a prominent leader in the McMinnville community, having served in a lot of capacities and currently holding a seat on McMinnville’s City Council. “I usually have about 15 balls in the air, keeping them moving is a skill aside from the winemaking.”

One of Remy’s passions as a city councilor is working on affordable housing within the city, “McMinnville is taking the issue seriously and taking a lot of time to design creative solutions. We’re working with other cities and counties in the state to take a proactive approach.”

Diane Seidule, Managing Partner - TTCG

Diane SeiduleAs the managing partner at TTCG (Transaction Tax Consulting Group), Diane Seidule has had to learn a few things. Starting with the company in 2009, Diane has seen the company grow, change, and become what it is today. When asked what that has been like she replies, “Fun. Lots of fun. There have been some growing pains, some heartache, some mistakes. But I think without some of that, I would not be as proud as I am of where we are now.” What initially drew Diane into the position is the company’s focus on helping people, “The focus of my life has been helping others. I saw in this company a way to explore doing that in a way I had not done before. We help large companies with taxes they pay on things they buy. Tax can be a complex and emotional subject for people. Why not help others by bringing some sanity to an area that can be confusing and frustrating?”

Though Diane runs the consulting group with the help of other executives she says, “I view my role more as a role of service. My role is one of bringing coordination, teaching, and organization to the company.” This eye towards service is important in everything TTCG does, including how they treat employees. The company has been in the top 10 of “The Best Places to Work in Oregon” for 4 years. Diane attributes this to taking anonymous comments from employees to see what they can do better, a fantastic company culture, and the owners of the company, “They set the stage for a culture that has really carried us to where we are now.”

Diane has a few simple words of advice for women looking to work in a similar industry stating, “Be willing to learn, be willing to work hard, and focus on the positive.”

Nikki Johnson, Business Operations - TTR, inc.

Nikki JohnsonTTR aims to “make tax simple”, but their overall purpose is much bigger – to improve the quality of people’s lives. Working in Business Operations, Nikki Johnson gets to see what this means in every aspect of the company, “I get to have a hand in so many different areas. It allows me to facilitate anything that another executive or employee needs while ensuring that everything functions smoothly and our incredible culture is maintained.” Nikki has been with TTR for four years, starting as the Assistant to the CEO and transitioning to Business Operations.

When asked for advice she would give other women, Nikki replied, “Look for a company that values its people and culture above anything else. When employees love coming to work, they will work harder, get more done, treat customers and clients well, and get along with one another.” She also points to the importance of creating a culture where employees feel safe to ask questions. “This kind of environment gives people the freedom to ask, grow, learn, and enjoy their jobs.”

When asked about working in an ever-changing industry with constant innovation Nikki replied, “A lot of us struggle with change, whether it is a change in business practice, change in management, or simply being moved to a new office. I do my best to embrace change rather than fight it. Being open to new ideas, really listening and understanding other points of view, and finding rightness in them has been the most helpful in staying flexible.”


We’re fortunate to work in a place that has so many inspiring women working to create a stronger local economy. Looking to start, expand, or locate a business in McMinnville? Give us a call today - 503.474.6814


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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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