Medford business owner Jessica Gomez said she is optimistic about her chances in race for Oregon governor. (The Enterprise/ABBY McDONALD).

VALE – Challenges are nothing new to Medford resident Jessica Gomez.

In fact, overcoming obstacles is sort of the microchip company chief executive officer’s forte, and that’s why she said she is optimistic about her campaign to be the state’s next governor.

Gomez was in Vale earlier this month as part of an eastern Oregon campaign tour and said the state has veered off course during the past few years.

“I see us going in the wrong direction,” said Gomez.

Gomez, 43, is one of at least five Republicans running for the state’s highest elected post. Gomez announced her campaign in June.

On the Democratic side, House Speaker Tina Kotek announced recently she will run to replace Gov. Kate Brown.

The last time a Republican gained the governor’s spot was in 1982.

Gomez is the founder and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices, a microchip manufacturing firm. She and her husband started the company in 2003.

The mother of two children, Gomez said education is vital to the future of Oregon. That’s why, she said, she believes education should be viewed through a different lens then it is now.

“We should make college part of our economic development strategy,” said Gomez.

Gomez said as governor she will push to implement a universal college credit program in Oregon. The program will ensure all college credits – earned as part of an apprenticeship, or at a community college or public university – can be shifted to any other Oregon college.

She also said she plans to develop a high school apprenticeship program beginning with high school juniors. She also believes state charter schools should be supported.

Gomez said more needs to be done to promote economic growth in Oregon.

“We need better infrastructure. Infrastructure is a big deal,” said Gomez.

Gomez cited Oregon’s water infrastructure as one area where modernization is crucial.

The Medford resident said creating a vibrant business climate is another key to future prosperity. She said she believes a one-size-fits-all approach to business and economic growth isn’t viable.

Instead, she said, economic development should be tackled on a region-wide basis.

“I believe as governor I am governor of the entire state, not just three counties. So, we need to pay more attention to the state’s regional needs,” said Gomez. “We have a lot of our state left behind in terms of economic development.”

Gomez plans to also carefully pursue broadband and transportation investments so communities can attract bio-tech and manufacturing industries as well as supporting traditional economic pillars like wood products and agriculture.

She said more taxes and regulations are the wrong answer. She believes Oregon needs a governor that is well-versed in the issues that affect its rural areas.

She said the state is “spinning its wheels” when it comes to public safety funding and resources.

The state also faces a housing and homeless crisis, two issues Gomez said she takes seriously.

The root of the homeless situation, she said, revolves around mental health and addiction issues. She said there is a need to “get people into long-term rehab programs.”

If obtaining the top political slot in the state seems daunting, Gomez doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge.

She has conquered numerous tests throughout her life. Gomez spent a year homeless when she was 14 before she moved to the east coast to live with her grandmother, a bilingual teacher. Her grandmother helped turn around Gomez’s life.

“She had high expectations. She believed if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything,” said Gomez.

After she graduated from high school,

Gomez attended a community college then went to work at a semiconductor company.

At 26, she started her Medford company and worked 12- to 18-hour days.

“My story is about resiliency,” said Gomez.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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