Ingenuity Seeks to Secure Land With Help From Other Visionaries

Ingenuity Innovation Center is situated on approximately 20 acres in St. Helens, OR (about 45 minutes from downtown Portland).

Ingenuity Seeks to Secure Land With Help from Other Visionaries

In mid September of 2012, the founders of Ingenuity Innovation Center moved onto the land where Ingenuity Innovation Center is now situated. The 20 acres had been sitting vacant for nearly five years and was listed on Zillow.  Like many other properties, the economic downturn had made it nearly impossible for many to purchase this pristine parcel.

“After Rosemary [Aaron Imhof’s mother] notified us that she had found some land in St. Helens, we went to go see it,” recounted Kate Wildrick.  “I instantly knew that this was the place where we needed to be.”

Rosemary’s discovery of the land in April 2012 initiated a new burst of energy.  Working in a creative way, Kate tracked down the owners and pitched their idea of creating Ingenuity Innovation Center.

“The discussions went back and forth all summer long,” stated Aaron.  “One afternoon, Kate and I just gave up.  Five minutes later, we received a text message from the owner asking if we were still interested in moving in.  We said yes!”

Kate and Aaron along with the help and support of two other project supporters (Dr. Dan and Sean Bryson).   It was a much anticipated event by many.  The agreement with the owners of the land was made on a traditional handshake where everyone agreed that every effort to purchase the land would be made as soon as possible after the one year rental agreement had commenced.

“A lot of people thought we were absolutely crazy for doing this.  Our huge leap of faith left many wondering how in the world we would pull it off given that we only had the vision and some friends and family who believed in us,” stated Kate.  “It was a really tough start, because there is nothing worse than having more negative energy coming toward you.  It really wore on us, but we stayed the course.”

As the end of the rental year neared, the discussions around purchasing emerged.  The founders began to look into ways to see about raising funds via crowdfunding in hopes of putting a significant down payment down to secure the land.  They launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised a little over $2K of the $100K goal.  Despite learning a lot about the crowdfunding process, the issues around acquiring the land only escalated.

“We looked at every angle.  The reality is that leaving the corporate world to build this dream put us in a catch twenty-two,” explained Kate.  “Even with the family capital we had managed to pool together, it was simply not enough.  Worse yet, because the land had two family residences on the land, we did not qualify for any traditional home loan programs and were excluded from USDA programs.  It came down to something we didn’t have – cash.”

After many late night discussions, the Ingenuers decided that they would find another way.

“We weren’t the only ones facing this problem,” recalled Aaron.  “Therefore, it seems that if there aren’t solutions for good ideas like ours it us up to us to help create a way so others don’t have to experience this.”

“I believe that everything really comes down to relationships,” added Kate.  “From what I was seeing a lot of that had been taken out of the lending world.  Deals are formulated on algorithms.  The most important factors, such as tenacity, endurance and caring values set in creating benefit for all aren’t considered.  The profit driven conscience centered around risk and ROI [return on investment] are what govern banks, lending institutions and most investors.  Projects like ours are typically doomed to fail because there isn’t conventional support.”

The Ingenuers shared their experience with the land owners.  Together they did the best they could to work with the bank and find solutions.  Everyone’s patience paid off, as long time project supporters Brad and Lisa Neef asked if they could help.

“In January, Lisa asked if she and Brad could come over to visit with us.  It has been a while since we had seen them because of many family challenges they had been navigating,” stated Rosemary. “To our surprise, they asked if they could join us in helping build the vision of Ingenuity.  All of us sat there in amazement.  It was a unanimous yes and a perfect fit for all of us.”

Lisa met Kate in 2009.  Their corporate work brought them together to serve in a local human resource chapter where they worked on developing best practices around strategic workforce planning and development.  As Ingenuity’s vision emerged, Lisa stepped into help collaborate on the foundational process.  Not only did she contribute to the powerful discussions of creating an innovative and sustainable model, but she also decided to invest in Ingenuity by contributing a brand new tractor.

Brad and Lisa made an offer on the land in mid March where it was accepted by the owners.  All parties are hoping to have the deal close at the end of April.

“We are so excited about this!” exclaimed Kate. “All of us knew that it was possible.  It just takes one person to show up.  For years, we asked for the right people to step up and help us.  This is a legacy project that we wish to pay forward for generations to come.  It is not about owning something and making money, it is about making an impact while creating a way for everyone to thrive.”

The Neefs are expected to join the core team of Ingenuity as legacy partners.  Together, Ingenuity plans on putting the land into a trust so the land and the resources that are established are made accessible to others.  Brad and Lisa will be bringing over 30 years of business expertise to help nurture and develop new and emerging business endeavors that are looking to employ the triple bottom line (people, planet and prosperity for all).