Notes from Colleen’s Desk: Stewarding Every Provision

In my last writing, I recounted a few bloopers of 2020 and what I learned from some of my more memorable “life happens” moments. I do have an adventurous bent and more than one person in my lifetime has commented on my independent spirit – fortunately, it is mostly in a good context.  Mostly.

Currently I am plotting another road trip in late spring into the eastern Oregon desert to retrace some favorite camping spots I enjoyed with my dad. It was well over 45 years ago. Yet, I feel compelled to visit Denio Junction again and have a hamburger there before driving into the Trout Mountains to a lovely creekside spot where Dad and I used to camp. If I can find it.

From our camp site we would watch for pronghorn antelope to chase on the ridge in Dad’s 1966 short bed Bronco (pictured). The next day we would hunt for arrowheads and hike miles and miles and miles down into a tiny little canyon to fish for trout in a creek that could not have possibly been more than three feet wide.

I never did find an arrowhead on a trip with Dad, even though he would trek ahead of me and strategically place one beautiful specimen of an arrowhead in the middle of the trail. He wanted me to experience the joy of the find. I would walk over it, of course. My eyes were fixated on him because I was mildly panicked about keeping up with him and not getting lost!

Dad used to also be quite the tease about an orange floppy hat that I sported.  For years he had me convinced that the cows grazing in the sage brush would charge me, so I should keep a low profile. I remember distinctly how on many occasions I would be completely undone by the prospect of becoming cow feed. This may explain why orange is now my least favorite color.

And why would anyone hike so far down into a canyon to fish, when the same creek was flowing right behind our tent? Who would even want to hike miles on end, anyway? The prospect of a cool Shasta grape or cream soda was on my mind. Inevitably, Dad would pack me out of the canyon.

Perhaps my favorite part of those camping adventures was a trip to old dumping grounds on the way home where we would find old car batteries and hundreds of beer bottles and soda cans to pick up. It was the equivalent of an outdoor thrift shop for me.

Batteries were worth a dollar back then and the smaller beer bottles were worth a penny. Be so lucky to score the bigger beer bottles and it was a whopping 3 cents each! We would pack and repack that short bed bronco (canvas top gratefully added much-needed packing room) so that I could take home every last battery and beer bottle.

I am not sure if that was an entrepreneurial spirit budding in me, but it was perhaps good stewardship. Cleaning up garbage in the desert wilderness and making money – it was a two-fer. After we packed it all up, I would have 6 plus hours of drive time with Dad to sing every repetitive verse of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and plot how I might spend my good fortune. And Dad, never even suggested I stop singing at 89 bottles on the wall.  As one of his four daughters, I am certain he did not want to quench my tom-boy spirit.

A year ago, at our annual Southern Oregon Business Conference, SOREDI was ambitiously plotting to increase outreach calls and we were confidently rebuilding the SOREDI team to implement the One Rogue Valley 5-year strategy. And then, disruption disrupted that plan, along with our expected budget.

Like every other business was forced to do, we changed. Sometimes with trepidation… and a few hiccups. We were also forced to be diligent in stewarding well every provision at our disposal. Naturally, we planned for decreased revenues, and some correspondingly decreased expenses.

As members and partners of SOREDI, I thought I would share a bit of a budgetary update with you and illustrate our good stewardship of your membership support and multiple other financial resources. In simple terms I want to share how our revenues are diversified, give you a fuller picture of how the agency operated over the last 11 months, and brief you on our planned strategy to steward some surprisingly unexpected and unbudgeted new revenues.

Many of you know already that SOREDI is not a government agency but rather, a private non-profit economic development agency. While our office is based in Medford, our work spreads across all 15 jurisdictions which was the intent of our four founding fathers – both counties and the Cities of Medford and Grants Pass – back in 1987.

Our typical annual budget is between $650,000 and $700,000. Most revenues will fall into membership, event sponsorships and registrations, grants, loan program transfers, and special contracts.  Our 2020-2021 breakdown of budgeted revenues were projected to be 49% membership (public and private) with another 35% of the pie coming from a combination of loan program and EDA Planner grant funds. Less than 20% would come from other sources.

Unfortunately, we may not see another event sponsorship or event registration come into our coffers this year. While we are optimistically planning our annual meeting for June 30, we know that piece of the revenue pie will be significantly reduced and likely 15% of our budget will not come to fruition.

On the upside, we have received federal and private grant funding in response to the pandemic and have been given multiple opportunities this year to serve various communities in administering their grant funds. This influx of new contract revenues could not have possibly been predicted when preparing our budget.

But as shared before, staff shifted in amazing timely ways. Here is a snapshot of the work we were privileged to do over the last 4-5 months. $4.8 million in grants out the door to hurting businesses.

I will cut to the chase here and share the impetus for this particular blog: we now have well over $235,000 in new direct grants to SOREDI and grant administration revenues to thoughtfully reallocate. No doubt, I feel like I’m at the desert landfill with Dad gazing at all those batteries and beer bottles, plotting what I can buy next or save up for!

Alas, I am not a 10-year-old anymore but the director of a reputable organization that is mission-based. We do not hoard unrestricted funds in rainy day savings accounts or spend funds without thoughtful oversight.

We do consistently aim to have about 4 months of operating revenues on hand at any given time to ensure we sustain minimal capacity as the region’s economic development district.  Beyond that, it is all about continuing to implement business development measures that align with initiatives within our One Rogue Valley Strategy.

Last week, the SOREDI Board of Directors received word of a favorable SOREDI audit for its financials ending June 30, 2020.  In audit-speak, there was no opinion.

Next week, the SOREDI Executive Leadership team will thoughtfully consider just how to steward these new revenues as noted above.  While none of us know what the future will hold, these extra funds will certainly help shore up our foundation as we navigate the next few years in this economic downturn.

Speaking of foundation, SOREDI (a 501c4) has been working to create a sister organization over the last two years and we are awaiting the final IRS approval of our 501c3 SOREDI Foundation. The 501c3 will be a charitable organization and allow us to accept tax-deductible donations – focused on educational and entrepreneurial activities – which is a distinction from our typical economic development platform. SOREDI Quest and Tech Tour activities/scholarships will fall into the purview of the 501c3.

A grant made from SOREDI to the SOREDI Foundation is one prospective use of new administrative revenues. Logically, as we continue to operate in a predominantly virtual environment, investments in our technology platforms and improvements to our website are on the top of our list too . Moreover, setting aside funds for turnkey opportunities pertinent to the implementation of the One Rogue Valley CEDS ranks highly.

A portion of these new administrative revenues have already been allocated to two projects with board approval. In short, SOREDI will help seed its newly established fire recovery and relief grant fund for businesses impacted by the Almeda and Obenchain fires in the amount of roughly $24,400. Another $12,700 is being granted to the Foundry Village project in Josephine County to help displaced and unhoused individuals navigate their own recovery back into housing stability and gainful employment.

Personally, I know that generosity in giving back has led to great blessing in my life. And the blessing of parents who taught me the fundamentals of stewardship is now being played out as I lead this agency.

I am blessed to serve Southern Oregon and steward every provision this agency receives. Not coincidentally, my word for the year happens to be “BLESS”. It is an acronym steeped in personal values, faith in God, and an incredible upbringing.

No surprise here, but the last “S” stands for steward. If you are interested in knowing more about my acronym, please write me!

Blessings,

Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

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