Medford Feature: History, Business and Change

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From the Portland-Seattle and San Francisco – Sacramento metropolitan centers, draw a 500-mile radius North and South and they cross in the Rogue Valley. We have the good fortune of being a day’s drive from either major economy. Businesses in our area are connected to both economies. Being on the I-5 corridor is a life line for our economic wellbeing. Our excellent air service from Medford only adds to the ease of doing business. The Rogue Valley is home to over 400 small to medium sized manufacturers. Our diversified economy crosses every major economic type, with the advantage of not being overly connected to any one economic sector.”

William “Bill” D. Thorndike, Jr.
President Medford Fabrication…CSC, Inc.

“Visitors to our region can count on an authentic, collaborative, and passionate spirit of giving back and giving big. The City of Medford’s leadership stance spills outside its borders to the entire region. Despite the fact that Medford is the largest, most prominent city in Southern Oregon, they continually demonstrate consideration for the entire region as a whole. They understand that the beauty of our region flows among all the communities and that together we are stronger and more resilient. For example, when faced with the need for their own updated economic strategy, they recognized that limiting such a strategy to just the City of Medford would be short sighted. They have approached the state legislature asking for financial support of a robust regional economic strategy, one which would benefit all of Southern Oregon.”

Colleen Padilla
Executive Director Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc.
1311 East Barnett, Ste. 301 | Medford, OR 97504

“Medford is home, not a stopover.” Bill Thorndike Jr.

From Jacksonville on Medford’s westside to Eagle Point to the east is about thirty miles. From the south of Medford lies Ashland twelve miles away. Central Point is about five miles north of Medford. That means in roughly 510 square miles with Medford the primary city in population are a number of communities sharing in and responsible for the region’s economy. The cooperative region of smaller communities with the center of commerce and government in Medford turns an 80,000 person city into a metropolitan area of 220,000 residents.

Identifying the region’s brand is an exercise in imagination at work. Want art and theater? We think of Ashland and the Shakespearean Festival. Want small town history and wine tasting? You may consider Jacksonville. Golfing and new business excitement might point you in the direction of Eagle Point. Manufacturing and blue-collar employment must include White City. Central Point has industry and agricultural production. The city of Medford is where Jackson County government is located and the retail focus of malls and shopping will satisfy needs of many residents of all surrounding communities.

The City

Incorporated in 1886, The City of Medford utilizes the Mayor/Council form of government. Medford is divided into four wards, with two Council members per ward. The Mayor is elected at large by the community for a four-year term. Council members also serve four-year terms, with one Council position in each ward up for election every two years.

Medford is a full-service city with 11 operating departments including City Manager/Mayor and Council, Medford Urban Renewal Agency, Finance, City Attorney, Human Resources, Police, Fire, Park, Recreation and Facilities, Public Works, Planning, and Building Safety. A Water Commission, while separate from the City, purchases from and coordinates with various Medford services.

The Community

Located in Jackson County, the City of Medford has a population of 80,375 and serves as the County seat. Medford is the demographic and economic hub of the southern Oregon region. With the continued growth in healthcare, retail and manufacturing along with retires discovering this great region, the City anticipates a continued growth rate of 1.8% per year and is currently the fourth largest metro area in Oregon. Medford is known throughout the country and the world for its pear orchards, and is home to Harry & David, one of the world’s largest shippers of fruit and food gifts.

The region offers endless outdoor recreation opportunities including beautiful city, state and county parks, championship golf courses, hiking, cycling, fishing, birdwatching, skiing, and other snow sports, whitewater rafting and other activities on the world famous Rogue River, which is only minutes away. Crater Lake, known as the deepest lake in North America, is just an hour and a half drive from Medford, and Oregon’s only national park. Medford is also conveniently located just two hours from the Oregon Coast and 30 minutes from the Mt. Ashland ski area.

Medford’s economy is driven primarily by the healthcare industry. The area boasts several major and community medical centers and physician groups, with the Asante Health System and Providence Medford Medical Center being the largest healthcare employers, employing over 2,000 people.

“Medford offers breathtaking scenery in every direction, a growing economic base, a moderate climate, and an excellent quality of life. We have a lot of exciting things happening at the City and throughout Medford. Our Council is currently going through a visioning process in an effort to identify values, goals, and aspirations for our community. Once completed, the results from the visioning process will be shared with community members who will then have an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas to create a community plan,” said Medford City Manager, Brian Sjothun.

Finding a Better Way

There are remnants of World War II era “pill boxes” in White City. As America was preparing to enter the European conflict with the Nazis this would serve to prepare 50,000 soldiers for battle in a place on another continent thousands of miles from home. Camp White was named after the general who ran the training operation – someone called it the “Alcatraz of military training” for its ferocious intensity. At the time, the military population would rank Camp White the second most populous town in Oregon. Today, downtown Medford is about nine miles away.

But, there was a time before Camp White.

It was 1843. Jesse and Cynthia Applegate reached the Columbia River with their 13 children hoping the journey would become less difficult on boats and rafts with 100 cattle and 13 children in tow. Treacherous rapids had other ideas when rafts were swamped, drowning four passengers including one of their children.

The courage to join a wagon train across the plains to Oregon is big enough; adding supplies and farm animals is nothing compared to a family that included 13 children. Heat, storms and concern for water and food in the trudge through what someday would be called the Heartlands of America makes the ease of travel on paved highways in luxurious powered vehicles seem an embarrassment of comfort in today’s America.

From tragedy was borne the idea of the Applegate Trail, an easier and safer way to southern Oregon.

From Fort Hall on the Snake River in Idaho the Applegate Trail began. At Fort Hall the trail travels south east meeting the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, semi-arid, treeless and over 314,000 acres. With his brother Lindsay, Jesse Applegate found the route that would become the Applegate Trail making the settlement of southern Oregon possible.

The Applegate experience would influence decisions made by Eugene Skinner who led his family and Oregon Trail caravan through the Klamath River basin to what is now Sacramento, California and northwestward through the Rogue River valley. He is known for his wife’s suggestion that the place they settled should be called Eugene. And so, it is.

Brad Hicks, CEO of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, says Medford doesn’t have new problems, just ongoing issues to address; lack of affordable housing and homelessness, aging infrastructure, dwindling land supply, workforce development challenges.

“On the flip side of the coin, one of the great advantages we have in southern Oregon is that the old way of job-seeking and transplanting companies has been changing around us for some time,” Hicks says. “It used to be that people went where the jobs were located without much thought as to the place itself. Today, jobs are inclined to go to places people want to live, and people want to live in southern Oregon.”

There are businesses in the Rogue Valley with roots going back over 100 years. Others are relatively new, but have found a place with all the necessary advantages for making a business successful for years to come. The climate is hard to match. A determined and talented workforce is a great asset, with local colleges and training resources for building a better team regardless of industry. Affordable housing and recreational opportunities add more to the selection of the area by young families for setting down roots. Medical facilities increase the favorability factor manifold. Local business is not shy about telling their stories about living and working in Medford and the surrounding communities.

Walt DeBoer founded Lithia Motors in 1946 as a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership in Ashland, Oregon. Following Walt’s death in 1968, Walt’s son Sid along with Dick Heimann, grew the business to include 5 stores and 19 franchises in Southern Oregon. In December 1996, this collection of dealerships was transformed into Lithia Motors, Inc., a publicly traded company (NYSE stock symbol-LAD). They envisioned a company that would continuously grow, provide great customer service, and opportunities for employees.

Lithia is one of America’s largest automotive retailers featuring most domestic and import franchises. Stores serve urban and rural populations throughout the United States. Lithia is focused on providing customers with an honest and simpler buying and service experience. They give customers straightforward information so that they can make confident decisions. They believe that local communities are their lifeblood. In addition to the employment opportunities provided in each of their neighborhoods, they also provide contributions to charitable organizations that serve families, friends, and customers.

Like a tourism advertisement Asante Medical’s website, southern Oregon’s largest medical provider, make you wonder why you aren’t already here, or explains why you are not likely to ever leave. -Greg Henderson –

“Our medical facilities are located in the picturesque Rogue River valley. Nestled between the Cascade and Siskiyou Mountains, the valley is in the “rain shadow” of the mountains and avoids much of the famous Pacific Northwest moisture. The mild, four-season climate offers warm summers, mild winters, beautiful springtime displays, and exquisite fall colors.

Attend world-class theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, spend a day touring local wineries, or take a trip to Redwood National Park or Crater Lake National Park.”

Our Home in Medford, Oregon

Harry & David was founded in Medford and to this day is headquartered here as Southern Oregon’s largest employer. The extensive 55 acre campus is comprised of numerous buildings, each housing some aspect of the vertically integrated operations which are the strength and tradition of Harry & David’s companies.

The most visible landmark is the 1937 art deco packing house, a local attraction prominently located along the main highway. The campus consists of administrative offices, an information technology building, packing houses, storage facilities, a candy kitchen and bakery complex, an employment and education center, customer service call center, marketing offices, an in-house advertising agency and much more. Additionally, there are 2,700 acres of orchards located around the Rogue Valley. Here, the normal workforce of 1,700 swells to over 6,700 at the peak of the holiday season, with as many as 100,000 calls received in a single day.”

About Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport

The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport is located in southwestern Oregon on 855 acres adjacent to the city of Medford, Oregon’s central business district. The Airport is located north of the I-5/Highway 62 interchange.

The Airport serves the Southern Oregon/Northern California region, with the majority of the Airport’s users residing within Jackson County. In 2016, over 822,000 passengers used air transportation and aircraft operations totaled over 39,000.

The management system at the Rogue Valley lnternational-Medford Airport consists of an Airport Advisory Committee/Director System. The Airport Advisory Committee is comprised of nine members appointed by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. The goal of the committee is to act as an advisory board to the County Commissioners working through the Airport Director on matters of public concern.

Need a Special Place for a Meeting? Try the “Oval Office” at the Airport?

The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport opened the Airport’s “Oval Office” on Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Over 25 local sponsors contributed to the project which was completed just in time for the 4th of July celebration. The airport’s Oval Office has since been available to rent and has seen a significant amount of activity including, a wedding, film shoots, business meetings and catered dinners. One of the most identifiable pieces in the Oval Office is a smaller version of the Resolute Desk. The wood flooring replicates the same pattern that exists in the actual Oval Office. The three-dimensional wallpaper gives the impression of being able to step out into the Rose Garden.

If you would like more information on renting the Oval Office for your next meeting or gathering, please contact airport administration at 541-776-7222.

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