I was born in and spent my early childhood in a predominately Hispanic, working-class community on Long Island, New York. I am the oldest of four children. My family valued education, hard work, and made a tremendous effort to assimilate into American, middle class culture. My parents were concerned about our safety and exposure to negative influences, so they decided to home school me and my siblings.
At the age of twelve, my parents moved from New York to Oregon, settling in just north of Rogue River in Wimer. My parents wanted to raise the family in a more rural environment, and my dad decided to start his own home business making cabinetry. The economy in Southern Oregon at that time had begun to suffer from the steep decline of the timber industry, and we had a difficult time making ends meet. Financial pressures, combined with seclusion and lack of family support, finally took its toll. My parents separated, and our family scattered. I enrolled in public school for the first time starting mid-year of ninth grade at Rogue River High School. The following year I attended a few months of tenth grade at Ashland High School, while bouncing around between different living situations. That summer I relied heavily on the kindness and generosity of a young couple that provided meals to the homeless kids living in Lithia Park.
I finally moved back to Long Island to live with my grandmother, and started my first full year of public school in the eleventh grade. I was academically behind in many areas, and worked hard to catch up with my peers. I graduated high school and went on to a local community college. To help support myself, I worked at a computer chip manufacturer, Standard Microsystems. That is where I became fascinated with technology.
I moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2000 to begin a new career as a programmer/analyst at Integrated Micromachines, a telecom startup. My husband and I were married and bought a house in the spring of 2002. By 2003, the dot-com bubble had burst, and my husband and I found ourselves out of work. Although we both found new jobs, I felt the need to return to Oregon and re-establish ties with my family. My husband and I began to look for jobs in Southern Oregon where we could use our technical background. Unfortunately, there were none. We decided to take a leap of faith. After selling our house in Southern California, we used the money, along with a bank loan and a loan from SOREDI, to open Rogue Valley Microdevices in 2004. Fast-forward to today, our company has twenty employees, we have two wonderful daughters, and I am excited to embark on the next chapter.
Listening To The Community
Jessica believes the best ideas come from our community. She wants to create a more vibrant Southern Oregon through listening and collaborating with others.
Jessica understands the importance of family and hard work. She has had to balance work and community service, all while raising two children with her husband.
Small Business Owner and job creator
Jessica is the founder and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices. As a job creator, she advocates for changes which support small businesses and a thriving local economy.
President/CEO – Rogue Valley Microdevices
I started Rogue Valley Microdevices fourteen years ago along with my husband. I have been the CEO of my company since I was twenty-six years old. The first several years were a struggle. Failure was not an option, since everything we owned was either in the business or collateral for the business.
We have had our ups and downs. 2008 was a very difficult year for us, but we survived, and eventually thrived. As a business owner, I see firsthand the impact of local and government policies on education, workforce, and health care. I need to make payroll, pay off bank loans, and pay taxes. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish as a team, and am excited about the future of high-tech in Southern Oregon.
Co-Founder and Board Chair, Sustainable Valley Technology Group
With the help of a small group of business leaders, I co-founded Sustainable Valley Technology Group, a non-profit business incubator/accelerator. The organization was formed at the height of the recession in 2010 and, true to its name, was primarily focused on supporting innovative entrepreneurs in the clean tech field. Under our leadership, the organization broadened its focus in order to provide support to a more diverse group of local companies, many of whom are thriving today.
We learned a lot about rural economic development and, just like any new organization, experienced a period of trial and error. It took a little over a year, but we developed a business accelerator model that was very effective. We received considerable state and regional recognition for our work. Business Oregon later hired our executive director, Heather Stafford, to head up their new program the “Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative.”
Unfortunately, Sustainable Valley Technology Group was forced to discontinue operations due to decreases in state funding for regional economic development initiatives.
Team Member – Jobs and Economy Team
Governor Kitzhaber 10 Year Plan For Oregon – Outcomes Based Budget Process
In late 2011, I was asked by the Kitzhaber Administration to participate in the Governor’s “Outcomes Based Budget Process” for the 2013-2015 Biennium. There were a total of five teams, each tasked with evaluating and ranking programs according to outcome area.
10 Year Plan outcome areas
Economy and Jobs; Livable Communities
Healthy Environment and Safety
As a member of the Economy and Jobs; Livable Communities team, I reviewed 59 different government programs managed by 22 different state agencies. The team worked for two months and delivered a report which included a list of recommended funding levels for each program.
This was not an easy process and required collaboration and compromise from all team members. At one point near the end of the process, after we had completed our budget and program prioritizations, we were informed that our budget had been reduced in excess of 40 million dollars. We essentially had to start over. That’s when we realized there were some very difficult decisions that had to be made. The Governor’s budget was released two months after the program funding teams completed their work and reflected much of their efforts.
Vice Chair - State Workforce Investment Board
Through my work on the Economy and Jobs funding team for Governor Kitzhaber’s “Outcomes Based Budget Process,” I was introduced to the Governor’s Workforce Development Policy Adviser, Angnes Balassa. Ms. Balassa recruited me to serve on the State Workforce Investment Board. I was appointed to the board by Governor Kitzhaber in 2013, and asked to serve as Vice Chair. I, along with Board Chair Ken Madden, provided leadership during the State’s Workforce System re-design.
Like many government systems, Oregon’s workforce system is quite complex. There are multiple funding streams from the federal and state government, that flow through the state workforce investment board. These funds are allocated to each of the local workforce investment boards, who finally use that funding to contract with local service providers. I served on the State Workforce Investment Board during a time when there were a lot of changes being made in order to streamline the workforce system. I learned a lot during my tenure, and had the opportunity to work with some truly brilliant people. I served on the State Workforce Investment Board until my term ended in 2015.
Board Member - STEM Investment Council
In 2013, I was appointed the newly formed STEM Investment Council. The council was formed by House Bill 2636, which was passed during the 2013 Legislative session. Operating under the Oregon Education Investment Board, the council was comprised of nine private sector leaders from across the state.
The board was tasked with developing and overseeing a statewide strategy to advance the following education goals:
Double the percentage of students in 4th and 8th grades who are proficient or advanced in mathematics and science.
Double the number of students who earn a post-secondary degree requiring proficiency in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
The council worked to establish STEM Hubs throughout the state, which have become an integral part of the Oregon Education System.
Board Member - Oregon Institute of Technology Board of Trustees
In 2013 Senate Bill 270 was passed, paving the way for the big changes in how the Public University System is managed. The new legislation allowed individual universities to create their own Governing Boards and by the middle of 2015, all seven Oregon Public Universities had established new governing boards. My experience in high tech coupled with my commitment to public service was a good fit for the Oregon Tech Board of Trustees. I was appointed by the governor along with 13 esteemed colleagues to begin work as the first ever Oregon Tech Board of Trustees.
It is an honor and responsibility to serve as a University Trustee, and I have learned a tremendous amount about Shared Governance and our education system. As a brand new board, we had a lot of hard work to do. In the beginning we spent many hours discussing policies and procedures that would help guide our work and define our role. We worked hard to establish healthy relationships with our president, staff, faculty, and students.
Oregon Institute of Technology is a Polytechnic University with locations throughout the northwest, including campuses in Klamath Falls and Wilsonville, Oregon. The university is ranked among the top 3 public western regional colleges by U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges 2018”.
Board Member - Oregon Business Development Commission (Business Oregon)
In 2015 I was appointed by Governor Kate Brown to be a board member of the Oregon Business Development Commission (Business Oregon). The board oversees the state economic development agency's activities to ensure a coherent, integrated approach to economic development and a continuous policy direction that can transcend changes in executive and legislative leadership. Business Oregon is an important state agency and as a commission we are focused on providing the agency with guidance and support.
In my opinion, Business Oregon is one of the best run agencies in the state. It is responsible for managing a wide range of economic development programs and services. The main focus areas are infrastructure finance, global trade, innovation/entrepreneurship and facilitating access to capital.
We have some incredibly smart and dedicated leaders on the commission and it is a true pleasure to serve with them. The commission has eight appointed members and two ex-officio members, Senator Betsy Johnson and Representative Janelle Bynum.
Board Chair - Rogue Workforce Partnership
Jackson and Josephine County Workforce Investment Board
While serving on the Oregon State Workforce Investment Board, I was asked to chair our regional Local Workforce Investment Board (The Rogue Workforce Partnership). During my tenure with the Rogue Workforce Partnership, we have worked tirelessly to build partnerships with business leaders, K-12 educators, workforce service providers, economic development, and other key community partners in order to support the development of a truly dynamic regional workforce.
We made a conscious effort to assemble a board that would represent the kind of partnerships we wanted to develop. Along with our incredibly talented business leaders we were able to recruit important strategic partners including representation from our higher education institutions as well as K-12. Although we have one of the largest boards in the state, we are all very engaged. It has been exciting to work with such an amazing group of people.
The Rogue Workforce Partnership is focused on building innovative solutions to address workforce priorities and the needs of employers, especially those in traded-sector industries, that drive our region’s economic growth.
Board Member - The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
I joined the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County Board of Directors in 2014. I currently serve on the Executive Committee as the Vice Chair Representing Business Issues. The Chamber represents over 1,500 businesses and is dedicated to building a stronger local economy by promoting the community, providing networking opportunities, and representing business issues through lobbying and political action.
During the 2017 Legislative Session I lead a team of chamber members in drafting a proposal outlining ways in which the state could reduce the PERS unfunded liability. The “PERS Realignment Strategy” was adopted by the Chamber and submitted as testimony to the Senate Workforce Committee on March 13, 2017.
PERS is such an important issue because it impacts every aspect of Oregon’s state government. My colleagues and I feel passionate about being part of the solution. The PERS Realignment Strategy encompassed some real creative thinking about what could be done to help manage this issue and provide some relief to schools and municipalities.
Board Member - Oregon Business Council
In early 2017 I was nominated by Bill Thorndike to join the Oregon Business Council Board of Directors. The Oregon Business Council is a non-partisan association of more than 40 business community leaders that are dedicated to improving quality of life and economic prosperity for all Oregonians.
OBC is an important voice in our state. Together we have studied and developed solutions that help our state improve big systems like healthcare and education. Economic development and poverty reduction are also high on our list of priorities.
OBC is also the driving force behind the Oregon Business Summit where business leaders and state elected officials come together to discuss our priorities and challenges. This past year I had the distinct honor to moderate a panel titled “Achieving Bipartisan Legislative Wins,” where I interviewed Senator Lee Beyer, Senator Brian Boquist, Senator Cliff Bentz, and Representative Caddy McKeown on how Oregon was able to achieve bipartisan success on transportation.
This experience helped me appreciate how important relationships are in the state capital. At the end of the day it’s those relationships that enable people to continue working together toward a common goal even though they may not always agree with each other.
Committee Member - City of Medford’s Housing Advisory Committee
Like most cities in Oregon and across the northwest, the city of Medford is experiencing a housing shortage. In October of last year, the Medford City Council formed a Housing Advisory Committee to which I was appointed to by Mayor Gary Wheeler. As a committee, we worked with the planning department to identify and recommend a set of policies to the City Council that would help address housing needs.
We made a total of 41 policy recommendations that fell under two categories, Economic Incentives and Regulatory Reform. The most significant was the establishment of an Affordable Housing Excise Tax; a tax of one-third of one percent on residential, commercial and industrial improvements to provide funding for affordable housing development. The revenue raised by this tax would be used to help leverage federal funding and provide economic incentives. The affordable housing excise tax was adopted by the Medford City Council on October 10, 2017.
This effort that was supported by developers, business and community leaders, serves people in vulnerable populations. I am proud to have been part of a solution that will positively impact our community. I was also thrilled to receive news that the Medford Urban Growth Boundary expansion was approved. This will help provide a steady supply of land for residential housing development in order to support our current needs, future growth and better balance supply and demand.