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Oregon Business Leadership Summit

Aerial photo of Remy Wines new adaptive reuse winery, set in the Dundee Hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Surrounded by the farmhouse tasting room, 7 acres of vineyard and forested valley, which hides a little creek.2022 Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit: Seizing the Moment

Remy was honored to be a speaker at the 20th annual Leadership Summit https://oregonbusinessplan.org/2022-leadership-summit/on December 12th, addressing the Manufactoring in Food and Beverage portion of the agenda. Here are her full remarks. 

Good Morning, I’m McMinnville Mayor Remy Drabkin, but here to talk to you today as the founder, owner and winemaker of Remy Wines, a small grape growing, manufacturing and sales business, located on 30 acres in the heart of the Willamette Valley.

My business model integrates sustainability:

  • environmental stewardship
  • increasing health and safety standards (especially for our agricultural stewards)
  • Investing in community partnerships
  • breaking down barriers to participation in our industry 

Remy Wines is one of many Food & Beverage businesses that has repeatedly demonstrated incorporating sustainability into your business model results in innovation, opportunity and growth.  Oregon needs resilient, diverse and secure workforces at every level of employment in our food and beverage industries – not just wine –  food and beverage – we are kombucha, beer, apple cider, hazelnuts, hops, cheese, salmon, crab, salt-water taffy, ice cream, cherries and berries, millions of peaches, green beans, cattle, we are farms small and large, restaurants and destination locations. 

Food & Beverage jobs have increased more than in any other sector since 2000.  Not surprisingly the data we have indicates we’re a workforce primarily of women and people of color.  The OSU economic impact report calculates food and beverage creates over half a million jobs in Oregon – that includes farms through manufacturing and into some restaurants and is integrally linked to the hospitality industry.  OBI demographic data on manufacturing alone shows employees of color approaching half of the workforce.

The growth potential of the food and beverage areas, small and medium towns, also means we’re in a place to fix things before we break them.  Things that are costly to fix later – like a workforce displaced by unaffordable housing.  

Business Oregon’s 10-Year Innovation Plan is built on the central premise that the continued vitality of our economy and the state’s high quality of life rests on its ability to encourage innovation. Oregon has the opportunity to create a competitive difference over other states investing similarly by building sustainability into its investment strategies.

  • invest in previously under invested communities through workforce development
  • manage the gaps and reverberations of growth especially in housing
  • Create pathways for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
  • Design accessible and informed spaces
  • Prioritize the environment

As we plan these intersections of government and business, we must also plan for equity.

I started Remy Wines in 2006, I’ve been through recession, growth, displacement – twice, a pandemic yet as a company built on a model of sustainability I was equipped to handle economic downturns and prepared to take advantage of opportunities.  I worked two other jobs when I started my company. Now,  I employ 10, offer benefits, adaptive scheduling, have long term employees – including my first hire. I incentive professional development, provide ongoing DEI training, and offer child friendly and accessible spaces.  

I’ve just completed an adaptive reuse construction project. I applied my sustainable business model to the construction of my new winery – I didn’t build new, I adapted and reused space and materials – the old tractor barn. I chose a General Contractor that shared my ethos on sustainability and together we set a goal of creating carbon neutral structural concrete. Not only did our collaboration result in the innovation of a carbon negative concrete formula – the Drabkin Mead Formulation – the pilot project, my 5000sq ft winery floor sequestered over 5 tons of CO2 emissions – the next closest commercially available product would have sequestered only 100lbs.  The Drabkin Mead formula not only sequestered carbon into the built environment, it acted as an incubator for a new business, Solid Carbon, which was just awarded a HIOP grant, much of which is going to OSU for continued research.   

Sustainability as a strategic priority can be the catalyst for innovation.  A food and beverage business has led financial investment from the state into research of structural concrete. Notably, concrete is responsible for 9% of the world’s CO2 emissions so a shift like this could actually move the needle on climate change.

Remy Wines co hosted our region’s first Pride celebrations.  I worked with other business owners who shared my ethos of sustainability which includes an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.  This collaboration became a non-profit, Wine Country Pride, which itself incorporated DEI by design.  The non-profit reinvests in the community through grants and scholarships and driving economic activity to local businesses. In 2021, One of our food and drinks initiatives, Rainbow Quest, drove significant local and tourist business into restaurants, coffee shops and  retail – many of which were on the brink of failure.

Food is a whole ecosystem and in agricultural areas where tourism is starting to boom,  food and beverage producers are growing, manufacturing and selling in condensed areas – it’s a highly efficient business model. Crop to Table.

Oregon can build a sustainable infrastructure into its Food and Beverage industry and other industries – we can be the leader that sees higher returns and gets better investment because we are intentional. 

Collectively, we can address overarching goals like accelerating growth and attracting investment – while breaking down systemic barriers to participation. 

We’ll close with a clip from Oregon Public Broadcasting’s SuperAbundant which showcases the abundance of Oregon’s food and beverage industry.

And I’d like to thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for your leadership.

 

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