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MEDP Spark - Forging the Economic Future

Sep 14, 2017

MEDP Spark, Volume 2, Issue 9 -- September 2017

quote over McMinnville photo

When Jody Christensen walked into the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) office in 2006, all that met her was a metal folding chair and a landline phone. The phone, sitting on the floor had a cord stretched from the wall to the middle of the room. As the new executive director, Jody knew she needed to start growing her rolodex. Picking up the phone and dialing was the first step in building McMinnville’s capacity to help recruit, retain, and expand businesses in our community.

The organization had been started thanks to five devoted partners: McMinnville Industrial Promotions, McMinnville Water & Light, the City of McMinnville, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce, and a small business representative. All recognized a need and took the necessary steps to fill it. This is not uncommon for McMinnville. With a long history of committed and devoted citizens, the town of McMinnville was, is, and will be well situated for growth for years to come. What role does economic development play in that? Here is your yearly reminder of what we as an organization do, why we do it, and how you can help.

MEDP's mission

As we approach October, MEDP also approaches their eleventh year in operation. From the one office room with a single chair, the organization has grown into new space, 2.5 employees, and both new opportunities and challenges. This year our annual event and awards ceremony: Forging the Economic Future, is our opportunity to celebrate MEDP’s growth, programs, our partners and investors, and all things #McMinnvilleMADE. Our Marketing Specialist, Lacey Dykgraaf, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Executive Director Jody Christensen to ask questions regarding what economic development is, the success stories over the past year, and more. 

Lacey: How would you describe the past 11 years at MEDP?

Jody: In one word? Phenomenal. In essence, MEDP was a start up. I was hired and they opened the door and there was a chair and a phone. So, in the beginning, we were very much on the journey that many businesses are on. We had to establish who we were, what we did, and understand what our work was. When MEDP started none of our partners had organized a collaborative economic development effort before, and now, we’ve influenced and have helped make McMinnville what it is today. We’ve worked with companies to make sure they can address their challenges. We’ve helped companies that were thinking about moving to McMinnville learn more about our community. We’ve developed relationships that have influenced and had impact on our businesses. We’ve developed programs like the McMinnville WORKS Internship Program, NEXT Series, and Manufacturing Educational Tours to name a few. We’re addressing big issues and we’re helping seize opportunities and to think that 11 years ago it was a chair and a phone. It’s pretty phenomenal to have that kind of growth.

L: Where do you believe MEDP is going?

J: We have a saying in our office, “We’re never lacking good ideas.” The great thing about being an organization like MEDP and having the support of organizations like McMinnville Water & Light, the City of McMinnville, and McMinnville Industrial Promotions is that it allows us to focus on the job and the task, and that is to help our businesses. And the great thing about business is that it’s ever changing. So when I think about where MEDP will be in five years, I know we’ll be here, helping the McMinnville business community, but I’m not sure what that looks like. And that doesn’t mean we’re not planning. That doesn’t mean we’re not putting foundational elements in place. It means we’re going to change with business. We’re going to change at the speed of business. We will be listening, knowing, involved with, discussing, and meeting with our companies on a regular and consistent basis because they are going to tell us what we need to be doing.

MEDP is going to change at the speed of business

L: MEDP’s upcoming Annual Event is called “Forging the Economic Future.” What does this mean to you?

J: McMinnville is at a critical time right now. There’s investment being made to attract tourists into our community. There’s a confidence in our business community that right now, at this place, things are good. They’re buying property, they’re expanding their businesses, and they’re building. We have a city who is investing millions of dollars in improvements. We’re nationally recognized as a charming community. All of those things add up. And when we say the word “forging” it doesn’t mean we’re going to let things happen to us; we’re going to work together to build it. We’re going to forge our own future. We’re going to build our own path in this process and the important thing is that no single organization is going to do it alone. No single business is going to be able to define a community growth initiative. It will take all of us together. So when we say forge the economic future, it’s not us. It’s not MEDP. It’s the community of McMinnville, and we are a part of that. We want everyone on board. We feel that the more we can communicate and we can all be on the same page, the stronger our community will be.

L: How can the average citizen help to create economic vitality in McMinnville?

J: You’ve heard the saying, “shop local.” Well, I think it’s about living local. The more people that are living, working, and playing in our community, the stronger we are. Think about ways that you could be literally more invested in our community. Eating at local restaurants. Buying goods in brick and mortar stores. Looking for a job locally. We have companies that have positions going unfilled for months. Is there a way that you could fill that spot? I’ve had people come to me from different communities. People with fast-paced, well paying, interesting jobs. They come here and have realized that life can be different. They tell me it’s monumental. Living in McMinnville might look different than a big city life. But I think the authentic life that you would live here... it's compelling. We’re not tourists here, we’re residents. The health of an economy comes from working and playing in your own community.

forging the economic future

L: What is the most important thing people need to know about economic development?

J: It truly is a team sport. And that’s an overused analogy, but the reality is you have to have a variety of people with different skill sets to really make things happen. And everybody has to work together on that. Economic development comes in all different shapes and sizes. This organization, MEDP, it’s about business development, growing businesses, and helping them address issues. But economic development can be the hospital or the school district. They’re part of the ecosystem. Everybody in some way is part of economic development because basically economic development means that you are growing your economy and developing your economy. We all cover different areas but it’s all about improving our community.

L: What are one or two business stories that has really excited you over the past year?

J: Well first, I think when TTR purchased and announced their redevelopment of one of the former Evergreen properties, that was stunning. We knew Kendall Jackson had purchased a building and the work they are doing is amazing. With the addition of a fairly unknown company in a growth trajectory moving to a more high profile location and investing in transforming that building, it reconfigures that entire side of the street. That changes everything now. You have two anchor businesses that have invested in that property. The area now becomes a business park. To me, that is an extraordinary chapter for McMinnville.

The second story involves the investment that Organic Valley made in McMinnville and quite frankly, in the state of Oregon. They are a global company and they invested in the former Farmer Cooperative Creamery building in an industry that for many, seemed traditional. With their investment, leadership, and stewardship of organic products, it’s so aligned with our region and the growing region of Yamhill County. From day one the company has been invested in the community. They want to employ people and give them training in really innovative food processing standards. They’re bringing a lot of energy and capacity with them because of who they are, how big they are, but also because they fit really well with us.

Governor Brown business forum

L: How have you seen McMinnville change since MEDP was created?

J: I feel like we have a stronger foundation now. And that’s not to say that we’ve not always had great partners and great people working in McMinnville. We have a long history of servant leaders in McMinnville that have given their time and generosity to make things happen. But I feel like over that last few years, with the establishment of Visit McMinnville, and investment in very visible components of the city, it seems like there’s an alignment. Things are starting to align in a different way and we’re thinking differently about how things get done. We’re all working on the same thing - economic vitality and making sure it’s moving forward in a positive way. There’s more collaboration happening than I have ever experienced before and I suspect that is just going to be the way we do things now. We’ve come to that place. We’ve gotten to a point where there’s recognition that we are all partners working towards the same goal. We all invest in different ways to make a strong economy, but we seem to be aligning more and more. Which, to be honest with you, to me is the beginning of something big.



It’s been a great year at MEDP and we can’t wait to see where McMinnville and our businesses will go in the coming year. To come celebrate with us, register for our Annual Event and Awards Ceremony today!


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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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