Techlandia Issue 5- 2021/2022 - Page 16

And the average commute time is 21 minutes, according to Zoom Prospector. 

Manufacturing employs over 2,000 McMinnville residents, and an increasing share of those jobs are in high-wage advanced manufacturing for companies like Applied Physics Technologies.

The electron-emitting cathode manufacturer for laboratories and government research agencies employs 25 people out of its northeast McMinnville location. It recently expanded its manufacturing operations to Hillsboro, a move President and CEO Marcus Straw says provided Applied Physics with the best of both worlds. The Hillsboro site gives the company access to potential customers in the Portland metro area. Meanwhile, McMinnville can serve as the hub for its growing research and development operations in AI and machine learning.

The region has also harnessed the legacy of Evergreen Aviation, which once employed hundreds in McMinnville and thousands around the world, to cultivate an emerging aviation technology industry.

Among the most prominent companies to grow out of Evergreen is unmanned aircraft systems propulsion designer and manufacturer Northwest UAV. Company owner and president Chris Harris had previously served as Vice President of Maintenance at Evergreen Aviation, the company’s charter and cargo airline, while also building up the UAV company. 

Since founding the company in 2005, Harris has built Northwest UAV into one of the industry’s leading unmanned aerial vehicle companies, focusing on engine design, engineering, support products, and services. The company recently added 30,000 square feet to its McMinnville campus.

“We’ve been focusing on innovation,” Northwest UAV Chief Technical Officer Jeff Ratcliffe said. “We’re trying to lead the UAV industry into more of an aviation type of mindset.” As the company grows, Northwest UAV is tapping into a skilled workforce from around the region and into the Salem and southwest Portland suburbs.

“It’s a great place for our workforce, and it’s also a great place to be an engine manufacturer. Getting employees to move here isn’t that hard,” Ratcliffe said.

And the McMinnville tech scene isn’t done growing. With solid infrastructure already in place, there are exciting developments on the horizon in wine country. McMinnville’s Economic Vitality Leadership Council, an advisory board formed to focus on near and long-term high-impact strategies, has recently identified an Innovation Center concept as a priority project for 2021-2022.

“The development of an Innovation Center is such an exciting opportunity for McMinnville,” said Heather Richards, Planning Director with the City of McMinnville. “It’s an idea that helps us to build upon all of the great efforts and traits of our business community that thrive on entrepreneurship and community stewardship.”   

The Innovation Center project in McMinnville is very complementary to the 10 Year Innovation Plan, recently released by the State of Oregon. The focus of the Innovation Plan is on fostering innovative traded sector industries, nurturing a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports cutting-edge technologies, products, and processes, and marketing Oregon as having an unparalleled quality of life. It’s almost like this state-wide plan was crafted with McMinnville specifically in mind.

Some couldn’t imagine doing business anywhere else. Manufacturing is a family endeavor for Heather Harris, Chris Harris’ wife and the owner and president of Northwest Rapid Manufacturing. Originally formed solely to supply Northwest UAV with parts, her business now provides various companies with 3D printing and advanced manufacturing services. 

“You’re talking to two very small-town kids,” Harris said of herself and her husband. “I guess we just love the feel of it. We’re not big city people.”

Many of her employees feel the same way. About 90 percent of her employees live in Yamhill County. And as Northwest Rapid has grown, Harris has been able to pull in talent from a pool of former Evergreen employees with advanced manufacturing experience.

As Chris and Heather Harris invest in McMinnville’s technology industry, others are following suit.

When the software company Buildable grew from a small handful of employees to over two-dozen, it invested in a 3,000-square-foot building on Northeast Third Street, the main thoroughfare through downtown. Recently it built out a 5,500-square-foot addition on the second floor of the building.

“We provide an option for people who don’t want to live in a city and pay $3,000 a month in rent,” said Oliviera, Buildable’s business development manager. “The McMinnville location is great, with a close commute from Portland, the coast, and Salem. There is also a great in-person experience available here. Having a high-quality restaurant and a couple of breweries next door gives remote employees the feeling that they can drop in when they feel like it and have options to entertain clients. It’s everything they want out of Portland, without having to be in Portland.”

The team at McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) feels strongly that McMinnville is the perfect place for businesses and their employees to cultivate the quality of life they are craving. Said Tayler Brisbin, Communications Coordinator with MEDP, “Not only is McMinnville home to a plethora of tech expertise, but it also has the added benefit of being the epicenter of the Mid-Willamette Valley wine and craft brewery scene. With low utilities, a thriving community, and excellent schools, we’re here to let you in on a little secret: Everything you need for your business and family to thrive is waiting for you right here.”