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MEDP Spark- Tech Terroir: We're Growing More than Grapes Here...

Jan 21, 2021

  MEDP Spark, Volume 6, Issue 1- January 2021 

Tech Terroir

Picture it, McMinnville, 2021… You might be thinking of the lush rolling hills, your favorite Oregon wineries, twinkle lit downtown, or even our robust manufacturing community. But as you close your eyes and envision the verdant grape vines, and historic charm, is a thriving tech mecca one of the first things to pop into your brain? We think it should be. 

Our Tech Terroir initiative aims to grow tech in Oregon's wine country by highlighting the creative networks, technical expertise, and collaborative spirit of the emerging tech industry in Yamhill County. One positive trend that has risen to the surface during the pandemic is the ability to work remotely. Many companies are realizing that the only thing required for a productive workday is a great internet connection and with local businesses like OnlineNW  and McMinnville Water and Light working to make sure the infrastructure is in place, McMinnville is a community where businesses and tele-commuters can thrive away from the crowds. A city with world-class amenities, wine, university, companies, and workforce, we feel strongly that McMinnville is the perfect place for businesses and their employees to cultivate the quality of life they are craving.  

Not only is McMinnville home to a plethora of tech expertise, it also has the added benefit of being the epicenter of the Mid-Willamette Valley wine and craft brewery scene. With low utilities, a thriving community, and great schools, we’re here to let you in on a little secret: Everything you need for your business and family to thrive is waiting for you right here. But don’t just take our word for it. As we dive a little deeper into the various companies that contribute to our thriving tech base, we wanted to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the scenes and share some stories of individuals who have chosen to call McMinnville home. 

Tayler Brisbin, our Communications Coordinator, took some time this month to connect for some Q&A with three locals working in the tech scene.

Matt Haughey

Matt Haughey is a McMinnville local who works for Slack as a senior writer on the content team in marketing. 

TB: Can you give me a brief synopsis of what you do at Slack?

MH: For those that are unfamiliar, Slack is a messaging app for any kind of business that replaces your internal email, phone, and other communications inside your company and it helps everyone stay in touch and aligned on all your projects.

I spend the bulk of my time helping people understand what Slack does, how it can change the way you work with others, and how to use it more effectively. 

TB: How did you get interested in this career path? What steps did you take to get here? What’s your background?

MH:I started college as an art major, but went into chemistry and environmental science because I loved that stuff too, and I eventually finished my masters in soil chemistry. This was back in the mid-90s and right after I finished college, the web was starting and I felt like it was a perfect mix of art and technology. It was a place I could bring both my skill sets to, so I dove right in. I was also one of the first “bloggers”  and helped build software and establish standards for that and writing every day for over 20 years really helped me hone my craft.

I worked at a bunch of startups  (Pyra Lab, and Blogger, just to name a few) before starting my own internet company, MetaFilter, a community weblog and internet forum that I ran for a decade. Eventually I wanted to go back to the 9-5 life and chose to land at Slack. 

TB: How did you end up in McMinnville? 

MH: Since I work on computers, I can live anywhere, but my spouse is a university professor in a narrow field, so when she was looking for jobs, we looked anywhere in the western US and thankfully, a spot came up at Linfield, which brought us here in 2003. She accepted the job before I'd ever set foot in Oregon, and I have to say it worked out well as we're very lucky to be here.

TB: How do you think McMinnville can continue to position itself as an enticing location for those in the tech industry?

MH: I always tell people from out of town visiting that it's a wonderful place with great food, glorious green hills and forests, and it's small but not too small and big enough to have lots of amenities but not too big of a place. To continue enticing others, I hope we maintain our small town feel, support our great local restaurants, and make sure we get fiber internet onto every street in town (it's mostly there, but full coverage would be great for incoming people to use).

TB: What (if anything) do you wish you had better access to here?

MH: We've got pretty good fast internet in most parts of the city, but we should make sure it covers all, even the outskirts of town. Sometimes I do have to head up to Portland for things not available here, but I think that's what small town living is all about—you can't always get everything you want here, but that's OK.

TB: Favorite thing about Living/ Working in McMinnville?

MH: I love all the restaurants down on Third, it's such a great variety of high quality options that makes me feel lucky to be here. Look at neighboring towns within a 100mi radius of us, and there are no other cities like us with James Beard Award winning restaurants and dozens of cuisine options in such a small town.

TB: What do you predict is the next big thing in tech in 2021 and beyond? What tech trends do you have your eye on?

MH: Everyone has been talking about VR for ages, but I still think it's something on the horizon. Realistically, I think 2021 will be about embracing long-term our work-from-home reality. Even once we all get vaccinated and can return to an office, it's clear most people don't want to go back full time, and will prefer a flexible schedule of working remote from home most days, with some days in an office. It feels like a new change that is going to stick long-term.

TB: What does Tech Terroir mean to you?

MH: It brings to mind what McMinnville is all about, which is a lush, beautiful, green place with lots of great places to see and visit that is relaxing and a wonderful place to live and thrive. 

On the tech side of things, I've been lucky enough to work remotely for two different companies as well as run my own during my time here, and it was a dream scenario for me. I've always wanted to live somewhere that felt like it was out in the woods, but that also let me work on the internet through a broadband connection so I didn't need to be in a big city or have to commute to one.

TB: Is there anything specific you would like to highlight about your company and what it’s like working for them?

MH: Slack  works for companies big and small, high tech and low/no tech. If anyone in town has ever considered adopting Slack, I'd be more than happy to walk you through how to use it or answer any questions about it.

For more information or to connect with Matt, you can find his LinkedIN page here.

Neal Andrews

Next I touched base with Neal Andrews, half of the founding team of Andrews Cooper, a local company that develops products and automation equipment for consumer electronic and medical device customers. They have Mechanical, Electrical, Firmware Engineers and Technicians that design, prototype, test, and release the products and equipment AC is involved with, and in the last twenty years the company has grown to over 115 employees with locations in McMinnville, Corvallis, Lake Oswego, and Bothell Washington.

TB: How did you get interested in this career path? What steps did you take to get here? What’s your background?

NA: Both Steve (Cooper) and I are Mechanical Engineers. I graduated from OSU and  Steve from BYU in the 80’s and then spent the first half of our careers working for Hewlett Packard.  HP provided us a great employee friendly and world class product development environment that helped us gain the experience we needed to start AC.

TB: How did you end up in the McMinnville Area?

NA: We were both working for HP’s Cardiology Product Business Unit in McMinnville when HP made the decision to shut down and move the business to Massachusetts.  Rather than relocate our families, we decided to stay and start AC (which turned out to be a great decision).

TB:  How do you think McMinnville can continue to position itself as an enticing location for those in the tech industry?

NA: Providing incentives for medium size tech companies that want to relocate to a family friendly town with great infrastructure.

TB: What (if anything) do you wish you had better access to here?

NA: Continued improvements to the Newberg/ Dundee bypass to increase access to 1-5 and Portland. I’d also appreciate more big box stores (like Costco, Fred Meyer, Trader Joes).

TB: Favorite thing about Living/ Working in McMinnville?

NA: McMinnville is a great place to live and raise our families.  We love the small town feel, and relatively easy access to bigger cities, mountains and coast. 

TB: What do you predict is the next big thing in tech in 2021 and beyond? What tech trends do you have your eye on?

NA: Battery powered /autonomous vehicles, green energy solutions, home medical equipment, onshoring of products, employee friendly automation.

TB: What does Tech Terroir mean to you?

NA: McMinnville is in the heart of the Oregon Wine Industry.  Its location provides a great opportunity for it to drive innovation and modernization for that industry.

TB Is there anything specific you would like to highlight about your company?

NA:  AC would love to work with local companies that need product development or automation technical support.

Learn more about Andrews Cooper, and connect with Neal on LinkedIN

 Matt Redhead

Next I spoke with Matt Redhead the owner and president of Exceltech, a local Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) Company.They specialize in circuit board assembly, wire harness and mechanical assembly and assist other companies in building key components for their products.

TB: How did you get interested in this career path? What steps did you take to get here? What’s your background?

MR: I have always had an interest in building things and enjoyed working in the support infrastructure.  I was a technician in my early career, and followed my interests into project management, sales, and operations.  A few years ago I reached a point in my life where I wanted to make a jump to business ownership.  Lacking an original idea, but filled with spirit, I sought to purchase a business that I felt had the potential to survive an ownership change and could grow.  After researching the process, and opportunities available, I landed on Exceltech Inc.

TB: How did you end up in McMinnville?

MR: ETI has been in McMinnville since 1976. I came to McMinnville to be a part of the company. 

TB: How do you think McMinnville can continue to position itself as an enticing location for those in the tech industry?

MR: McMinnville is great because of the relative simplicity of doing business here.  We have proximity to larger, local markets, but can live and work in a small town environment.  Looking toward the future, there is room for industries to grow here.  I think the key to retaining tech business, and attracting new ones, is facilitating growth without sacrificing the cost of living and operating businesses here.  The area will remain enticing to the tech industry if the people have the financial flexibility to be creative, take risks, and be successful.

TB: What (if anything) do you wish you had better access to here

MR: I feel like we are set up for success. No access issues here.

TB: Favorite thing about Living/ Working in McMinnville?

MR: Favorite thing about working in McMinnville is the friendly people.  The residents of this community are so supportive.

TB: What do you predict is the next big thing in tech in 2021 and beyond? What tech trends do you have your eye on?

MR: Advancements in automation and robotics is what I’m excited to see more of.

What does Tech Terroir mean to you?

MR: Tech Terroir to me refers to the unique character of the local tech industry. In McMinnville, we are our own unique flavor that is a product of our base parts, exposure, and cultivation.

TB: Tell us just a little bit more about your company.

MR: Exceltech has been a part of this community for several decades.  We are a bridge from the tech industry of McMinnville’s past to the present day.  We have worked for many recognizable Oregon companies as they evolved over time.  Currently we are grateful to be partnering with innovative companies from Oregon’s current era such as Applied Scientific Instrumentation and Audio Precision. 

Learn more about Exceltech and their services, by vising their website 

Humanity of TechnologyExpert Panel at the Humanity of Technology event hosted by MEDP in 2018. We hope to host a Tech Byte Event in McMinnville in the Summer of 2021

These three individuals contributing to the technology landscape of McMinnville represent  just a fraction (or should we say kilobyte) of the companies who have discovered that our community is the perfect place for tech to grow and thrive. Northwest Rapid Manufacturing has been a premier provider of additive manufactured parts (3d printing) and services in Yamhill County for over a decade.  Buildable, a custom software company was just included in a HIOP (High Impact Opportunity Projects)  Grant from Business Oregon to help develop Open Source ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) that will be more accessible for the manufacturing community and small businesses.  Unique-Wire is on the cutting edge of digital forensics, and their sister-company Predicta utilizes Artificial Intelligence to analyze data from millions of online sources to create comprehensible marketing information.  (To read more about Predicta, see our MEDP Spark from 2017). Applied Physics Technologies produces cathodes that have been used in many different applications: microscopy, microanalysis, additive manufacturing, and other industries that use electron sources in their products and work. McMinnville is also home to multiple companies on the cutting edge of UAV, aeronautics and aviation technology. NWUAV is the leading UAV propulsion system designer and manufacturer in the nation. Precision Integrated Systems, relocated to McMinnville in 2018 and is organized into four branches: manned operations, flight training, unmanned operations, and aviation maintenance. 

At MEDP we are busy dreaming and planning for the future of tech in McMinnville and cannot wait to engage in more conversations about what is on the horizon. Interested in connecting more about the future of Tech in McMinnville? Give us a call. 503.474.6814

 Some upcoming Tech Events we have our eye on:

Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) Ag Innovation Challenge February 24, 2021—March 3, 2021

 The 2021 Manufacturing & Technology Conference is looking for speakers 


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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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