Independence is a rural community of about 10,000 located in the Willamette Valley near Oregon’s capital, Salem. The city was founded as one of the primary destinations of the Oregon Trail — named for Independence, Missouri where settlers departed.
Long a leader in community engagement and downtown revitalization, Independence built out its own fiber-to-the-home broadband system with its neighbor, Monmouth, in 2007. Then in 2015 the city embarked on an effort to leverage its fiber broadband network to become an interface between urban technology and rural agriculture. Successes have included the creation of a popular series of agriculture tech meetups, development of a community makerspace, several ag-tech and smart city pilot projects, and several new STEM education programs targeted at K-12 students and English language learners.
- With the help of the Rural Innovation Network and a 2020 EDA Build to Scale grant, the city’s work has expanded into a regional initiative led by the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) called the Northwest Ag Innovation Hub. SEDCOR and its partners are creating a regional farmer network to bring together those in the ag supply chain who are excited about innovation in their industry. The Innovation Hub will also be hosting regular events to give technologists, software developers, and entrepreneurs a chance to work directly with farmers and bring their technical knowledge to agricultural problems.
- Independence’s downtown revitalization and entrepreneurship work has also continued to grow through a partnership with Indy Commons, a downtown coworking space, and the creation of Indy Idea Hub, a nonprofit microenterprise development organization This alliance is opening a shared-use commercial kitchen, event space and micro-retail market downtown, and launching a number of programs aimed at supporting the region’s entrepreneurs.
What RIN means to Independence
“It's lonely doing digital economy work in a rural community. The Rural Innovation Network got us connected to other communities doing similar work and allowed us to share ideas, inspiration and access new resources. It's a very collaborative environment and the RIN folks are really responsive to the needs of the communities they work with.”