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MEDP Spark - Economic Development and Enduring Innovation

Sep 13, 2018

MEDP Spark, Volume 3, Issue 9 -- September 2018


We at MEDP have a privilege that is often sought out by people doing similar work to ours. It’s a privilege that not only makes our jobs easier, but allows us to shine with pride when speaking about our community. It’s a privilege that others look at with envy and to which we draw on everyday in our office. At MEDP, we get to do economic development in a community that has always been innovative, has always looked ahead, and who has always cared about the future citizens who have yet to arrive. Here at MEDP, we get to work with people, a city, and a general public who truly, genuinely care.

This care put into our community can be seen for generations. This year, MEDP is celebrating the end of our 12th year of serving the McMinnville community. At our Annual Event and Awards Ceremony we have adopted the theme “Leveling Up on Innovation.” We at MEDP are drawing from the inspiration of our past to look how we can “level up” for the future. With an approaching industrial revolution and new technologies being utilized everyday, we know that sitting by passive and waiting is not how our businesses, our community, or employees will find success. Instead we are answering to the inner call of our “McMinnvillian” DNA and actively innovating for the future.

McMinnville Industrial District
An Aerial Image of McMinnville's Industrial District

Over the past year MEDP has been busy. According to MEDP executive director, Jody Christensen, “We are on a strong and steady path. Our companies are growing and we’re seeing more inquiries in our office from companies that are interested in McMinnville.” This interest is not only seen by companies but also other organizations and cities looking to emulate what McMinnville has created, “McMinnville is on a lot of peoples’ radar right now. They’re paying attention to what we’re doing. They’re asking how did we do this? How did we get here? They’re asking how do we create a buzz similar to what we are seeing in McMinnville? The reality is, a lot of people have created what we have today. A lot of projects have been highlighted and a lot of good work has been featured.” This “buzz” around our community has created a sought after environment. “The buzz has created a welcome mat. People want to figure out how they can be a part of this community and we need to figure out what that means.”

With this growth comes a need for our community to “roll our sleeves up” and understand what the future could be. Jody continues, “We have an obligation in McMinnville over the next 12 to 24 months to gain clarity around some important opportunities. We need to make sure that we can keep a positive business environment which means we have to have adequate housing, we need to strengthen our workforce pipelines, and we have to understand that we have a responsibility as a community to make sure everyone can access what the city has to offer.” How we interact with growth will also play an important role moving forward, “We have to be open minded. We have to be able to embrace new ideas and we really have to take the philosophy that our business leaders have. We’re at a point where we are “leveling up.” There’s new interest and there’s new excitement. We have to be bold and brave and we need to understand that maybe we’re not going to have all the answers right away.”

MEDP organized a VIP tour of Jackson Family Wines new state of the art facility in March of 2018
MEDP organized a VIP tour of Jackson Family Wines new state of the art facility in March of 2018

So what does “leveling up on innovation” mean to MEDP? Jody explains the statement saying, “We at MEDP understand the importance of adopting and adapting to a new way of thinking and doing work. We’ve experienced that with several of our companies, that they’re looking at innovating around the production of products and how they approach the work on the floor. They are looking at what types of equipment they’re using and are really embracing a new way of doing business. Business leaders understand that advanced manufacturing is going through an evolution and they have to understand how new technology will become a part of their business.”

When asked about the word ‘evolving’ Jody responds, “We had the opportunity to organize a group of McMinnville High School students to take a tour of Ferrum Technology, a one of a kind knife producer found here in McMinnville, Oregon. Marc Wade, general manager at Ferrum, was taking the students on a tour and while talking about production of the company and how they’re producing their knife, he said, ‘We’re not just innovating, we’re evolving.’ That struck me as such a brilliant way to describe innovation. They’re not just adapting to everyone’s innovation, this company is really evolving. I see that over and over again when we talk with and tour McMinnville companies. Business leaders are standing on the edge of something new. I have such an admiration for these leaders who are facing the unknown and yet they’re starting to carve a path. There’s such a bravery in being the kind of leader who’s willing to say we’re going forward even though we don’t know the end of the path.”

Marc Wade, General Manager at Ferrum Technology takes students on a MEDP EDU Tour
Marc Wade, General Manager at Ferrum Technology takes students on a MEDP EDU Tour

This drive for innovation is not new to McMinnville. Looking through a short history of the town, it’s impressive to see the actions taken in the past that still positively impact our community today. Jody speaks of this mindset, “A community like McMinnville has an innovative drive because it’s in our DNA. It’s in the pioneer spirit of people coming in and forging a new way of life. We have a deep and rich history in McMinnville. We honor that because we understand that together we can make a great place. When McMinnville has an opportunity or challenge presented to us, I think there’s something in us that says if we work together, we can make this better.

Jody has countless examples to point to. From MIP’s (McMinnville Industrial Promotions) 9 in ‘69 campaign that ensured we would have strong industry in McMinnville to McMinnville Water & Light’s roots that have created a water and electrical system that is world class. “MIP has purchased and developed industrial property in our industrial district since the 60s and have been a cornerstone of manufacturing. They are part of the reason we have a strong manufacturing sector. McMinnville Water & Light was built to be focused on a very specific area. It has allowed them to be very responsive to our community as we grow. It makes us highly competitive and also gives our businesses assurances on the cost of doing business.”

MIP buys and develops industrial land in McMinnville to ensure a strong industry
MIP buys and develops industrial land in McMinnville to ensure a strong industry

In the coming year MEDP is focusing on taking on the same mentality as our business leaders who are forging their own futures. In 2017, MEDP launched our 1,500 in 15 initiative where we set out to foster the growth of 1,500 new, living-wage jobs in the next 15 years. The second year has revealed MEDP is still on track to meet our goal, and we are focusing on campaigns we believe will help deliver on this promise. We are continuing our Tech Terroir: Growing Tech in Oregon’s Wine Country campaign, working with the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) on a digital publication and a renewed effort to host networking events to strengthen this sector in our community.

Going forward, the best way for the McMinnville community to support economic development is a philosophy MEDP lives by: celebrate our businesses. “MEDP makes sure that business is at the forefront of everything we do. We want everyone to know who’s doing business in town, what they make, and how they are connected to the community. Make sure you know what’s going on in the industrial district because everyone of us in an ambassador to our business community.” Finally, if the community could only remember one thing about MEDP as an organization, Jody would want people to know, “We’re here for traded sector businesses. It’s why we were created and it’s our focus. We are honored to do this work everyday.”


Learn more about our Annual Event and Awards Ceremony: Leveling Up on Innovation


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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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