Treasure Valley Community College’s new Career and Technical Education Center project received a much-appreciated boost this last month with the infusion of $975,000 in additional funding for the project.

This effort was the result of Rep. Lynn Findley’s dedication to ensure TVCC and other critical projects in Malheur County received the same support as those on the west-side of the state. Findley, R-Vale, contacted me earlier this year to ask how he could support TVCC, as well as to ask what we are doing to support our community’s workforce development efforts.

As we talked about local needs, I told him that one of our most important efforts right now was raising the additional funding needed to complete our CTE Center. We had already received $5.6 million in funding through a combination of state and federal dollars to support the project based on original estimates done in 2013.

I also shared that although we are extremely grateful for the support we have received, as one can imagine, construction costs have increased significantly since our initial ask to the State of Oregon in 2013, at almost $975,000 more was needed just to complete the project as originally planned.

As I was sharing our concerns, as well as new opportunities, I could tell he was already moving from discussion to action, and was looking for solutions. I’m so grateful that he listened to our needs, saw a way to help and was able to bring support back to TVCC.

Receiving the additional $975,000 enables us to complete the construction as originally designed to meet industry and student needs in our region. Without these dollars, we would have had to scale back the project and reduce lab, classroom and industry training space.

These new dollars also reduce the need to fundraise for construction and instead allow us to focus our fundraising for equipment and technology needs in the new center.

Bid advertising is planned to begin mid- to late-September and we are hoping to begin construction in December or January.

While we are appreciative of the opportunity these new dollars bring to TVCC, we are keenly aware that these are public dollars and we are committed to being good stewards of these resources to continue supporting educational and economic development opportunities in our community. Malheur County has a large untrained workforce, an exceptionally high percentage of people under the age of 18 compared to the rest of the state coupled with less than half of residents pursuing higher education. Eastern Oregon alone reported 900 job vacancies in 2016 and a lack of applicants to fill them. As job growth has ramped up in the state so has the number of job vacancies. A large share of these difficult-to-fill job openings require work experience which further reduces the applicant pool in a tight labor market.

With an updated and expanded facility, TVCC can build a skilled workforce that will support existing businesses and attract new industry and be the catalyst for economic recovery for the region.

I appreciate the support from both Findley and Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario. We can be proud of the advocacy, dedication and representation we all receive in Malheur County from these two good men.

Dana Young is president of Treasure Valley Community College. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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