Each morning I roll out of my driveway and take a gander at one of the old apple trees that grace the front lawn. Most of the apples drop dutifully each year, by late October or early November, and I am scrambling to use them up or give them away. If they are not plucked first for a tasty mid-morning or post work-out snack, they mostly end up as applesauce or in hot apple pies for Thanksgiving.
Except one particular bunch of apples – perhaps 12-15 once-golden beauties – that are clinging together on a high branch, seemingly unable to let go. It is quite the curiosity to me.
I am one of those introspective individuals who often find personal and professional growth messages in nature, in road signs, at trail junctions, and apparently now in the old apple tree. Specifically, I am wondering what I might be personally clinging to, inadvertently perhaps, that may be robbing someone else of the opportunity to grow, excel and produce better fruit than I may be producing.
Had that bunch of apples been thinned early in the season to give them each room to grow, perhaps they would have ripened sooner, grown larger and then dropped on their own so that we could have enjoyed them. Instead, they just huddled out of reach and looked glorious for a time, but ultimately (if you look closely) they became rotten.
For the last 7 months, SOREDI has undertaken a substantial work to update our 5-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Nearly 50 hours of focus groups and one-on-one interviews, a citizen survey, and deep dive into workforce data and demographics culminated two weeks ago as we rolled out the 88-page updated “strategic doing” plan. We purposely hired an experienced consultant to give us an outside perspective. Sometimes, we just can’t see that how we might be “heads down” in the huddle, operating inefficiently and ineffectively – like that bunch of apples on my tree.
On November 13, I also celebrated my 18th year with SOREDI. I have been blessed to serve Southern Oregon and I am blessed to work with exceptional team members and community leaders. I am grateful to be surrounded by my family, nurtured by amazing friends and colleagues, and directed by a 28-member board of directors who are dynamic regional influencers.
Things have been going quite well at SOREDI for 32 years. We are keeping our activities relevant and winning awards for our creative work. However, I have also had this inkling for the last 3-4 years that we could be still more effective – both internally as a staff and externally as one of many great business development agencies serving the region. We could possibly better utilize all our resources. To that end, we are working hard to establish key performance metrics and objectives to “move the needle” for our local economy.
So, I think it is time to find the pruners in order to produce better fruit. Coincidentally, our updated strategy suggests a bit of the same; increased collaboration to leverage the great efforts underway while reducing duplication of services, cohesive messaging around a regional identity, collective and streamlined processes, creative centers of excellence and more.
The 2020-2025 One Rogue Valley CEDS is unlike any other 5-year plan that has been crafted to guide our work in SOREDI’s history. It is a comprehensive plan for the region that invites active participation and accountability from multiple agencies for the greater good of the entire Rogue Valley. We earnestly want to create a better basket of apples. We want to innovate and help businesses create better products and services that lead to thriving, vibrant, fruitful communities in Southern Oregon.
On a personal and related note, I enjoyed the company of 10 fabulous ladies at my annual “blessings party” this past weekend. We didn’t have apple pie, apple crisp or even applesauce. But I was gifted a jar of apple butter – a spreadable offering of fruity goodness.
After more introspection, I think these lessons from my apple tree aptly apply:
- Take time to be evaluate your fruit-worthiness
- Recognize when you are the one that needs to prune first
- Think beyond just one good apple and aim to create a bountiful harvest for everyone
- Innovate and create new offerings of spreadable, fruity goodness
With that, on behalf of the entire SOREDI staff – Happy Thanksgiving! We are grateful for your support and encouragement every day. We hope you have the chance to enjoy a great piece of pie this season.