Notes from Colleen’s desk: Play it Forward, Southern Oregon!

“Play it Forward” is not a typo. I do mean to say play. And aren’t we all ready to get out and do that – play? With our beautiful region reopening in this post-COVID phase-one period, it is now possible to do much more than just an evening walk around the neighborhood. Maybe a chilly float on the Rogue in your SOTAR raft!

Coincidentally, I penned this particular “notes” article in January 2019 – at about the time we began to first publish snapshots of our thoughts and activities from behind the scenes at SOREDI. At that time, we certainly knew how much we needed to appreciate all our small communities and so we hired an SOU intern to write a variety of stories for each of our 15 jurisdictions.

We wanted to inform you and intrigue you enough to check out the community next door. Most of those community gem stories have published and can be found here.

About 15 months ago we also embarked upon an update to our comprehensive economic development strategy. Schedules filled up with meetings and other activities and the original play it forward blog just never published. And so, as we are all eager to get out and about, we’d like to revisit that play on words (authored by Rob Merriman, retired SOREDI Community Development Manager) and share what’s on our hearts.

We’ve likely all heard about paying it forward, maybe even seen the heart-wrenching movie by the same name. You know the concept behind the phrase. Maybe you’ve even experienced it yourself. The car in front of you pays your bridge toll (somewhere outside Oregon, of course). Or here at home, you drive-through Dutch Bros coffee and you pay for the person behind you, they pay for the person behind them, and so goes the “Dutch Love” chain reaction. Does it make you feel good? Part of something big and meaningful? It does for me.

Southern Oregon – the Jeweled Crown as we like to call it – has so many cultural, recreational, and educational assets we’d be hard pressed to capture them all here. Add to this diversity of amenities our fabulous climate and business-friendly attitude, and visitors to our region might just want to stay longer.

We think so. In fact, we can share many stories of existing businesses in the region that came for a visit and then moved their business here or started a new venture. We are counting on that again …eventually.

Shifting gears for a moment, let’s start with you and me. What are you doing this coming Memorial Day weekend? Unfortunately, we know we won’t be at Boatnik in Grants Pass this year, but how about a scenic drive up to Butte Falls to see the waterfalls, grab lunch at the Sugar Pine Café and then circle through Shady Cove for a soft ice cream at the iconic Phil’s Frosty?

Let’s morph this pay it forward thinking into a play it forward initiative and visit our neighboring communities. Let’s take pride in the small-town pioneering spirit that weaves in and out of the Rogue Valley, much like the Rogue River. Let’s encourage small cafes and retailers to stay strong – Southern Oregon Strong as the Medford Chamber aptly proclaims – with our pocketbook.

In so doing we will all be prepared later to heartily share our great finds and experiences with all the visitors who will soon return. Let’s instill so much charm and pride in our region that visitors can’t help but stay another day, visit yet another community jewel, and become enamored with Southern Oregon.

Imagine with me you are that future visitor attending a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and right next to the box office is a wayfaring sign suggesting a visit to Central Point’s artisan food corridor – just 20 miles northwest and an easy 30-minute drive. After you grab your Rogue Creamery blue cheese truffle, you step out to see another wayfaring sign inviting you to an invigorating Hellgate Excursion in Grants Pass – just 30 miles northwest and a scenic 30-minute ride. And if you are not too wet (highly unlikely), you might make it back to the Britt Musical Festivals in Jacksonville for an outdoor concert – just 30 miles away and … well, you get it.

That is what we call playing it forward! Each community invites its guests – and its citizens – to consider their next play in another community in our region. Together, we celebrate our neighbor and we share our brilliant crown with every visitor and guest. It might be an actual wayfaring sign one day or maybe right now, it’s simply your welcoming smile and first-hand playful experience.

We will need to be thoughtfully ready though because we might just create some extraordinary community pride and attract another stellar and resilient company to Southern Oregon. We’ll be on our way to becoming the most business-friendly region on the west coast and truly, One Rogue Valley.

Imagine that. But why stop there at imagination? The weekend ahead is looking spectacular for a drive! Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction makes a delightful deli sandwich and you can pick up some jerky for your road trip. On your way there or back again, you might consider gazing on a few hundred trees at the Palmerton Park arboretum in Rogue River.

Let’s Play it Forward Southern Oregon!

Playfully yours,

Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

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