I grew up learning how to play the piano. Every Tuesday, I would dutifully walk about half a mile up the road, along the pear orchard (which is now a vineyard), to my 30-minute piano lesson. No doubt, it was a sacrificial labor of love and investment for my parents at $2.50 each lesson. The same teacher and price for 10 years!
I still have that piano. Gratefully, it is in relatively good shape despite the many times I’ve moved it in the last 45 years.
After a long hiatus of not playing much, I decided to have my old friend “Hammond” tuned – also a long time coming since its last tune up was in 1992! I also moved it to a different location in the house, where I was more likely to sit down to tickle those ivories.
So, I pulled out a few classical music song books, the pages of which had not been turned since my teens. I was astonished! First, Hammond sounded fabulous. Perhaps even more astonishing, I could still reasonably play those classical pieces.
Of particular interest to me was the fact that, while my right hand played the melody for the most part, with a few embellishments here and there, my left hand was seemingly playing some very complex scales without much effort. It had a mind of its own.
I liken it learning how to ride a bike. Once you have learned how, it just comes naturally. Muscle memory takes over and you don’t think about it much – you just go forward.
However, I also quickly realized that the muscle memory in my fingers remembered all the problem notes and measures as well, and repeated the same blunders from 40 years ago! Ouch.
This naturally led me to think about other ways in which we might, collectively, be playing the wrong notes over and over. I began to ponder SOREDI’s updated strategy and, in particular, how we talk about our region among ourselves, in the grocery store, or with the person sitting next to us on an airplane.
On occasion, it may even be a direct conversation with a company or a professional who might be thinking about expanding or relocating to Southern Oregon. If you have spent any time at a SOREDI Board meeting, or engaged in one of our committees, you know we frequently ask one another about our 30-second “elevator pitch.” We like to quiz one another about how they would quickly persuade someone to consider moving their business to Southern Oregon.
Many of our board members have included their 30-second pitch in their profiles. You can read them on our website.
What is your narrative about Southern Oregon? Have you learned a particular set of statements, like notes on the keyboard? Is it possible that there are a few mistakes embedded there? Do you need to go back and look closer at the notes on the page – the data analytics of our region – and change your own narrative?
Have we become accustomed to offering the same message points about the region? Maybe we’ve been offering accurate facts in a way that might not be proactive in capturing the essence of the great opportunities that lay before us? For example, we know that our region has a high percentage of retired citizens, many of whom are actively engaged and significant influencers. We could truthfully say that we are a retirement community.
But, we could also talk about the expanding medical, technical and professional industries in our region, complemented by outstanding cultural, recreational and educational amenities, making our region an attractive market for young professionals and families to find gainful employment.
Both of these statements are true, one focuses on where we want to go, not just where we’ve currently arrived.
Here’s another example: If you grew up in this region like I did, you may recall how some used to refer to Medford as “Deadford,” implying there was nothing to do in this particular community and there were certainly no good jobs outside the timber industry. Unfortunately, I still hear some of these sentiments today – over 40 years later!
The data analysis plays a different melody, however. With the recent release of our One Rogue Valley strategy, it is time to go back to the keyboard and practice the right notes.
Let’s change our tune.
Many have strongly suggested the same, including Jon Roberts, partner at TIP Strategies, Inc., who recently spoke at the Medford Chamber Forum. TIP Strategies is the consultancy we hired to help us craft our next 5-year strategy. You are welcome to read the entire document. The plan includes this bulleted list of our strengths and opportunities. I’ve included here for your reference. Perhaps this might help you reframe your narrative about our region.
Let’s focus on the positive and keep our momentum moving forward. Do that now and please do not wait for your commute home. After all, the average commute time in our region is only 19 minutes. That is hardly enough time to ponder and polish your 30-second pitch!
Colleen Padilla, Executive Director