Anna Del Savio, Portland Tribune
Portland Community College this week broke ground on the long-awaited manufacturing training center in Scappoose.
Leaders from PCC, Columbia County and Scappoose gathered Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Research & Development facility, called OMIC.
“This feels like one of the longest courtships on record,” Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said in a speech. “To be honest, there were times when it felt like a one-sided affair.
“For years, Columbia County taxpayers have been paying $2 million a year towards the promise that one day Portland Community College would build an educational facility in Columbia County,” she added. “But finally, we’re here.”
PCC had promised to build to physical presence in Columbia County for more than a decade, since shortly after passage of the college’s monumental $374 million bond initiative in 2008.
“I believe the time is right now. We have the right property, we have the right location, we have the right project, and we have the right partners,” said Linda Degman, PCC executive vice president.
“I know it’s taken time to get here, but when it’s right, it’s right,” Degman said. The $24 million, 31,000-square-foot training center will focus on manufacturing, with programs in machining, welding and more.
The program will rely on an apprenticeship model under which students will gradually spend less time in the classroom and more time in paid working positions.
“Having a community college in your community is transformational and is going to change everything in the city,” Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge said.
“There’s going to be an awful lot of overlap between the two of us,” OMIC R&D Executive Director Craig Campbell said of the two OMIC projects.
“Having us close together, having the opportunity to work with people who understand the power of collaboration … it’s going to create, by that collaboration, so much more than any of us could do independently,” Campbell said.
The facility, which is slated to open in spring 2021, hit a bump in the road last year when the owners of the planned property abruptly backed out of a sale after a year of negotiations. At the time, community members worried the hiccup would become an excuse for PCC to delay the training center.
Instead, PCC exercised its right of eminent domain to force the owners to sell and took possession of the property in December.