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Knapp: Mac's tourism potential soaring to new heights

McMinnville is gearing up for a busy and enjoyable summer.

This full-to-the-brim season marks a positive point of success in McMinnville’s decades-long efforts to preserve economic vitality and historical integrity along Third Street — and throughout our community.

This road to success was paved with the hard work of entities like the McMinnville Downtown Association, seasonal events serving to draw locals downtown, and government services and improvements in our downtown core to support locally owned business enterprises.

As these seeds of investment in our community grew, so did the Oregon wine industry.

Over the last 50 years, this blend of agriculture, manufacturing and hospitality has grown into an industry with a $7 billion impact on our state. And, luckily for us, Yamhill County boasts the majority of Oregon’s wine assets.

In the last seven years, since local business owners got together to create what would become the governing board of Visit McMinnville, visitor spending in our local businesses is up more than 75%.

Visitors money spent with local businesses also generates roughly half of a million dollars annually in transient lodging tax revenue for the city’s general fund. And investors are lining up to offer new opportunities serving locals and visitors alike.

Jeff Knapp serves as executive director of Visit McMinnville, the local visitor promotion agency. He also serves on the governing boards of the Yamhill County Tourism Partnership, Willamette Valley Visitors Association and TEDx-McMinnville. He and his family have made McMinnville their home for more than 10 years. In his free time, he enjoys cycling with his daughter and exploring other parts of the county.

Bolstered by the long-term efforts of locals, alongside the growth of the wine industry, McMinnville is now entering a new phase of development. It is strongly supported by the visitor economy and figures to offer terrific benefits for our community.

More choices in restaurants and activities, beautification efforts like the downtown murals and fun family-friendly activities and events are benefits of our visitor economy that locals can also enjoy.

However, these positive developments are unfolding against a backdrop of economic and workforce schedules on all levels.

Inflation is skyrocketing. Supply chains are compromised. The cost of housing in Oregon continues to soar. And the traditional mechanisms for funding local government are inadequate.

Visit McMinnville asks the question: How do we leverage the visitor economy to strike a balance and help with some of these broader issues?

With growing local awareness, the City’s MacTown2032 economic development plan, vital economic and marketing data, powerful partnerships and a growing awareness of McMinnville as a destination where visitors are happy to support local business with their dollars, we have a strong foundation in place for opportunity and innovation.

Visit McMinnville’s board and staff have been working toward diversifying McMinnville as a destination through expansion and promotion of outdoor recreation, agritourism and arts and culture. If we look through an economic development lens, McMinnville has many ingredients to build solutions.

Here’s an example for you:

There is strong consumer interest in engaging with agriculture more meaningfully. People are interested in learning where their food comes from and interfacing with that process.

Could we look to help small farms in Yamhill County to continue to be economically viable by responsibly empowering direct-to-consumer ag sales and farm visitor experiences, while simultaneously doing a better job of keeping products in our local supply chain?

With efforts like these, we can continue to support the financial success of small farms, pay homage to our community’s agricultural foundations, give locals more family-friendly ways to connect with the land and provide ancillary benefits to the growth of local hospitality businesses like the restaurants we love.

What about our airport?

McMinnville has a municipal airport that currently serves regional businesses and hobbyists. As visitation and awareness expand, a solid strategic future for our airport could include an innovation center campus that serves local industry.

Already, ongoing efforts like investment in infrastructure and the city’s data-driven Three Mile Lane planning will help set the stage for these opportunities. They promise to create more local jobs and much-needed revenue for city services.

Is there an opportunity to serve visitors arriving and departing by air more significantly? We should find out.

Looking a couple of years out, we expect a hundred or more new hotel rooms to be developed downtown, a performance venue to re-emerge in the Mack Theater and exciting new developments to occur on the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum campus.

This summer, you’ll be able to welcome several other new businesses, combining to generate local jobs and revenue.

The Tributary Hotel and okta restaurant will be opening their doors on Third Street this July.

Located where the bead store used to sit, and extending above the historic Taylor-Dale Hardware Building, this luxury restaurant and  boutique hotel will offer a next-level dining and lodging experience for McMinnville — and by extension, the entire Northwest. Their world-class team will include Michelin-starred chef Matthew Lightner at the helm in the kitchen and hospitality guru Christine Langelier as GM.

Another exciting restaurant aiming for a July opening is Humble Spirit.

Brought to us by the Carlton food and hospitality collective, The Ground, Humble Spirit bills itself as “a wine country restaurant sharing seasonal food with heart.” This welcome addition will open where 411 was located in the heart of Third Street.

Have you seen the small structures going up at Northeast Ninth and Alpine avenues?

The Boutique Retreat is designed as an upscale, tiny-house hotel.  This exciting, whimsical and fun project, featuring nine uniquely designed tiny houses, will undoubtedly help draw more interest and investment along Alpine.

McMinnville’s rural location, preserved and vibrant downtown, tireless community leader investment, agricultural and manufacturing growth in the wine industry and growing destination awareness have set us up to warmly welcome visitors from around the world. And we can use the proceeds from their spending to improve quality of life for our community.

See you in McMinnville this summer!

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