SOREDI has a consultant in town this week. We are ready to embark upon a new frontier, to discover the best vision and path forward for Southern Oregon as we develop our next 5-year regional and comprehensive economic development strategy. As our staff gathered this morning for an initial roundtable conversation with the consultants, they asked if our region experiences any “turf” issues. Do we have any areas in the region where different stakeholders feel a little competitive or defensive? We might have a few, but nothing insurmountable. We perceive the need to better understand all our roles and the ways that various organizations, and communities fit together to best represent all that Southern Oregon has to offer. But what really struck me was that there are those who want change in the region and those who do not – a generational turf war, perhaps. I find myself smack in the middle.
In a seemingly unrelated conversation, I was recently asked to name my “must-have gadget.” I pondered this for a moment and immediately thought about my apple slicer. It’s true – that is what I thought of first. But I suppose that is not the answer the interviewer was really seeking. My final answer to the favorite gadget consideration is actually my iPhone; it has dramatically changed the way I am able to do business and communicate every day. It’s a bit like the Swiss army knife of technology. But, in considering that question, I found myself in the middle again.
True confessions – I am just not an early adapter of technology. Ask me to navigate the remote control for cable television and I am likely to break out in a sweat or possibly decide to just watch network television, much to the dismay and sarcasm of my oldest son. “Why can’t there be just one controller?” I ask. A colleague also recently quipped something about a digital detox. And I thought – that sounds really appealing, except I haven’t really adopted enough technology to warrant a proper “detox.” And maybe I won’t.
Yet, I live in a world of increasing technology and I lead an agency that must continue to change and champion relevant economic development initiatives for the 300,000 citizens that make their home in Southern Oregon. Our largest demographic are retirees; yet we need to find ways to attract younger professional, technology-based companies, and amenities for our region that encourage our youth to stay here and thrive. My father was of the generation that did not want change and new development; imagine the conversations we had on a regular basis! I would simply say that if a community is not growing, it is stagnant. I am fairly certain that no one in Southern Oregon actually wants that.
You may or may not be surprised to learn that we have a relatively strong tech sector in our region. It’s hard to see it, as many tech companies are tucked away and do not boast a large marquee. You have likely heard of Procare Software – the nation’s largest provider of daycare management software, based in Medford. PLEXIS Healthcare Systems– another home grown tech company is designing healthcare adjudication software in Ashland. How about Linx Technologies in Merlin – they are engineering and manufacturing a plethora of wireless products that might just be a component of the temperature controller in your house or your home security system – all of which you can control from your phone. Or perhaps at some point, you will be undergoing a medical procedure that includes a laser – which may have come from our very own Diode Laser Concepts, based in Medford. And those iPhone and laptop screens – may have been created, along with millions of square meters of medical imaging film, by Carestream Health in White City.
Looking for some new high tech storage space? Then consider one of our newest up and coming technology based enterprises – Empire Lockers – which will have keyless, blue-tooth technology embedded in all their multi-sized motion and climate controlled units – check it out here: www.empirelockers.com.
Just last month, SOREDI hosted its third annual Tech Tour in Southern Oregon, in collaboration with the Rogue Workforce Partnership. Over 15 companies participated this year, as we took this road show – with over 80 students representing Southern Oregon University, Rogue Community College and Oregon Tech – to Grants Pass.
So, the bottom line is that technology is clearly changing the face of our world and our community. We are taking measures, in partnership with our existing companies and leaders in every sector – technology, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism, and more, to make our region the best it can be toward a resilient and continually thriving future. We hope you will join us as we embrace the change.