It's not every day that you see someone drive from Medford to the Woodburn area with the sole purpose of touring a couple of businesses.
That's what gubernatorial candidate Jessica Gomez did on Oct. 4, when she got a close-up look at the vast Woodburn Nursery and Azaleas operation during the early part of the afternoon, then cruised up to Hubbard to visit and tour Northwest Hazelnut Co.
Gomez is an entrepreneur, who along with her husband, Patrick Kayatta, founded the Medford tech company Rogue Valley Microdevices, which she serves as its CEO.
She is one of nine Republicans to date who have filed to run for governor. She is running a campaign that suits her, learning much about Oregon through a business lens.
"We are getting out and meeting with as many business operations as we can," Gomez said, stressing that it is important to get a pulse on what drives the state's economy at every corner of the state.
At the nursery she visited with Tom Fessler, who is the past president of Oregon Association of Nurseries, current OAN President Kyle Fessler and OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone.
"It's amazing what they are doing here," she said of the nursery. "This business is supporting 200 families."
She deals in a tech field and the area businesses she visited are agriculture related. Still, she feels comfortable talking the common talk that business owners have regarding markets, resources and even concerns about water usage.
"I've spent a lot of time in Eastern Oregon talking with agricultural people there in Hermiston and other places. We talked about value added agriculture, growing wheat and what challenges they have," Gomez said. "There are a lot of nuances in each corner of the state, and I've been getting to know the different business owners around the state."
As an example, she said water issues are shared statewide, but the concerns are different depending on the geographical area.
Gomez filed to run in June. Campaign spokeswoman Elaine Franklin said that since then the candidate has made at least eight trips, crossing northeast and southeast Oregon along with visitations to Columbia Gorge counties as well as other counties within the I-5 corridor.
The Fesslers' Woodburn Nursery, Northwest Hazelnut and its sister, George Packing Co. of Newberg, are all family-run operations that deploy echo-friendly, cutting-edge technology. Gomez marveled that the Hubbard plant is the first of its ilk to have a 100% solar-powered operation, and its products are sought on multiple continents.
Gomez discusses her humble beginnings and a wide array of issues on her campaign website, jessicagomezforgovernor.com.
Franklin said that Gomez would emphasize building strong regional economies, underpinning them with water, broadband and transportation infrastructure investments.
"As governor it will be my goal to empower entrepreneurs like the George (Northwest Hazelnut) and Fessler families so regional industries like theirs thrive all across this state," Gomez said. "State agencies on my watch will not be obstructionists. Heads of these agencies will be experienced problem solvers; people who will collaborate across agencies and find ways to say yes.
"Reclaiming Oregon's reputation as a business-friendly state with jobs and employment opportunities all across our state must be a priority," Gomez added. "I'm a forward-thinking CEO and as governor I'll bring to the table Oregon businesses and elected leaders to find ways to empower not control and regulate."
The gubernatorial primary race is not Gomez's first foray into politics; in 2018 she ran for an Oregon Senate seat, winning the Republican primary but losing to Democrat Jeff Golden in the general election.
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