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MEDP Spark - Empowered Economic Development

Apr 18, 2024

April 2024
This page includes articles from MEDP's Q2 Spark E-Newsletter. Click here to view the full newsletter.


Expansion and Evolution at EMPWR Nutrition

aerial photo of EMPWR Expansion in McMinnville
Photo provided by Eagle Eye Droneography

Driving past the property on Booth Bend Road, the letters EMPWR stand tall at a building that is carrying on a legacy of producing healthy snack bars for brands around the world. Or, as EMPWR puts it, “We make bars we love to eat.” The building was previously occupied by Betty Lou’s, Inc., which is still operating and making health bars in McMinnville’s Industrial District. Betty Lou’s co-packing division on Booth Bend was purchased in 2020 by Noble Foods. In 2022, EMPWR Nutrition purchased the business from Noble Foods with two running “heritage lines” and quickly doubled production with the introduction of a third line using technology the company similarly employs in their Croatia location. 

After a nationwide search, the international company chose McMinnville as its first U.S. headquarters. EMPWR executives toured the building in December 2021 and knowing a new line was on the way, the company was sold on the location, capacity, and possibilities. Now, EMPWR is looking to expand even further and in January, broke ground on adding 85,000 sq. ft. to the building footprint. With the new expansion, the company plans to have the capacity to produce 600-700 million bars a year, an increase in the company’s current production capacity of 200 million bars with the heritage lines and new line installed in 2023.

MEDP Touring the EMPWR Foods location

These expansions and new lines have also meant a large increase in the workforce at EMPWR. After bringing in the first new line last year, the company hired over 75 new employees. The current expansion will create even more opportunities for the local workforce, with a projected addition of 200-300 more job openings in the next few years. VP of Operations, Sheyla Wulf-Howell, wants the local workforce to know that the company is being thoughtful and proactive when it comes to hiring new employees, “We are putting in a lot of work to become one of the best local employers around and placing a lot of emphasis on the happiness of our employees.”

In practice, this means strategizing around higher pay, ensuring more paid holidays and time off for employees, and developing jobs that create livable wages and opportunities for their workforce. EMPWR wants employees to enjoy work-life balance, “We want our employees to be able to live the life they want with this one job without having to work overtime. We want to make sure they can still catch their kid's soccer games and that we can create better benefits and packages that help whole families.”

Expansion outside of EMPWR in McMinnville

The company has benefited from local partners. According to Wulf-Howell, “It’s been amazing to work with Business Oregon, the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, City of McMinnville, and SEDCOR. They all pull together to find solutions and resources when we have questions.” EMPWR also wanted to recognize the work of Mike Morris, a MEDP Board member, and Mary Martin Miller of Miller Consulting, for helping identify storage locations during the expansion project.

The company will receive a $1 million Strategic Reserve Fund (STR) grant from Business Oregon to assist in the expansion costs. Business Oregon Director Sophorn Cheang stated, “EMPWR’s planned expansion is thrilling news for McMinnville and demonstrates why Oregon has recognized Food and Beverage manufacturing as a key industry in the continued growth of our economy. Business Oregon is proud to collaborate with our local and regional partners to support this foreign direct investment and the hundreds of new jobs it will bring to the state.” 

Snack bars being produced at EMPWR

EMPWR Nutrition has plans to continue its growth well into the future in McMinnville. This healthy snack co-packaging company has already made big strides in its short time in McMinnville. MEDP is enthusiastic to work with EMPWR as they build a strong future and roots in the community.

See more Q2 News in our Full Quarterly Newsletter. 

Data-Informed Workforce Solutions 

MEDP Employees at a Chambers event  MEDP Deputy Director Heather Hadley Blank, Project Management Intern Soren Smithrud, and Workforce Development Project Management Contractor Craig Brockett talk about Workforce Programs at a Chamber Greeters event 

The initial development of the City of McMinnville 8212 Grant Action Plan (an American Recovery Plan Act Project) is nearing completion, highlighting the significant strides made by MEDP in addressing post-COVID-19 workforce challenges. The feedback from stakeholders has been both diverse and extensive. Nearly 100 businesses in McMinnville actively participated in either a comprehensive workforce survey or engaged in industry-specific/Latinx-focused listening sessions. Additionally, a secondary survey was crafted to capture insights from employees and job seekers within local businesses on similar concerns.

Survey results indicate that many local businesses have been unable to connect with a sufficient number of qualified candidates for jobs since COVID-19. Furthermore, many of these businesses appear to be disconnected from local resources that could assist them in these efforts. To provide a solution to this problem, MEDP will be supporting the development of a newly created workforce resource directory on the recently unveiled YVCareers website. This one-stop directory will include information and web links to a comprehensive list of workforce-related resources for both McMinnville businesses and local job seekers.

Drawing from other insights gathered through these engagements, several additional initiatives and action items are currently in progress. Among these initiatives is the development of a seasonal hiring event aimed at better connecting local job seekers with opportunities, not only for the summer but also for the future. MEDP is also actively involved in supporting healthcare providers to fill employment vacancies by facilitating programs for both short-term entry-level positions and pathways for advancement for incumbent workers. Finally, a mentorship program will be developed through partnerships in the Workforce Innovation Network to better provide networking and work-based learning opportunities for McMinnville Career and Technical Education programs.

Learn more about MEDP's work on the 8212 Grant Action Plan. 

See more Q2 News in our Full Quarterly Newsletter. 

Building on 10 Years of Growing Our Own Workforce

Host Sites representatives at the Launch Meeting

2024 Host Sites meet for the kick-off meeting for the 2024 McMinnville WORKS Internship

The McMinnville WORKS Internship Program is heading into its 11th year, with 16 Host Sites intending to hire for 23 internship positions for the summer of 2024. The Host Sites represent companies and industries throughout McMinnville, with a wide variety of positions available for young professionals and college students. Along with returning host sites, including Cellar Ridge Construction, the City of McMinnville Engineering Department, Cutting Edge Metals, McMinnville Water & Light, MEDP, Phenix Solutions, Solid Carbon, Solid Form Fabrication, and Swedemom Center of Giving, new host sites and newly returned host Sites include Buchanan Cellers, EMPWR Nutrition, Ether Form, Parker Meggitt, and Willamette Valley Medical Center.

The program is slated to be another success. We received 295 applications from college students and others around the region, and Host Sites are actively in the hiring phase, with interviews and hire finalizations happening through May 1. While interns will start their internships depending on when they and the company are available, official programming and professional development workshops start in mid-June and will last through the first week of August.

Thank you to all those who participate in our “Grow Our Own” workforce program! We’re excited for another successful year of introducing young professionals to our community. Follow McMinnville WORKS on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Learn about our host businesses in Host Site Highlights and this summer, our “Meet the Interns” social media campaign will showcase the interns and the projects they are working on. Meet the interns in person on July 19 at the McMinnville Chamber Greeters event!

See more Q2 News in our Full Quarterly Newsletter. 

Innovative Machines to Support Local Farmers: Holt Ag Solutions

The outside of Holt Ag Solutions in McMinnville 

Tucked back in McMinnville’s Industrial District, you may have missed the opening of a new business at 1410 NE Alpha Dr, McMinnville, OR 97128. Outside of the newly painted building, you’ll be greeted by machinery representing the newest innovations in agriculture equipment and technology for farmers. Opening in December of 2023, Holt Ag Solutions’ McMinnville location has already started making local connections and improving the lives of our local agriculture community and the farms that provide us with food, crops, and wine every day. 

Started in 1931, Holt Ag Solutions is part of a family of companies that started in California and have always been committed to providing solutions and improving the lives of farmers. McMinnville represents the company's newest, and northernmost location, which offers a variety of product lines and brands that are the top of the industry. Speaking with Payton Paschoal, Ag Marketing Specialist with Holt Ag Solutions, she speaks on the importance of having inventory available for customers near them, “We’re able to showcase a lot of equipment at our new location, which is important because it lets the customers come in and try out the equipment. We also do demos and leases on all of the equipment. Our central location means we have the ability to bring the equipment out to local farms which is important for farmers to be able to see the impact on their own lands.” 

The McMinnville location also grants access to Holt Ag Solutions to offer more solutions for the wine industry and equipment that is specifically made to be used in vineyards. Brand new products have been game changers with specialty crop tractors that were developed specifically for vineyard applications without sacrificing the quality Fendt and Massey Ferguson are known for. Even better, Holt Ag Solutions’ connection with the manufacturers and producers of machinery means they can work together when farmers express specific concerns. As Payton says, “Western agriculture is very different from midwestern agriculture, so when we see something here in the West, we’re able to bring that information to the manufacturers and work closely to provide solutions.” Payton also commented that if manufacturers aren’t producing a product that will solve their customer’s problems, Holt Ag Solutions has been known to go out and find a way to make it themselves. 

Overall, Holt Ag Solutions wants to relay the message that they are here to support our local farmers. If you’re looking for the latest in farming technology and equipment, we recommend stopping by for a chat. The McMinnville location can be found at 1410 NE Alpha Dr, McMinnville, OR 97128, and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more on their website,

See more Q2 News in our Full Quarterly Newsletter. 



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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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