Legislature approves matching funds for new OCCC facility  

‘WERC’ would house trades, tech and disaster preparedness programs

When the legislature passed Senate Bill 5505 on Friday, July 7, it approved the state’s issuance of a number of general obligation and revenue bonds. Among other things, the bill will provide matching funds for a long list of projects from Oregon universities and community colleges, including $8,140,000 for Oregon Coast Community College’s Workforce Education and Resiliency Center (WERC).

The facility will house programs designed to meet workforce needs for Lincoln County and the coastal region. It will be designed and built in a manner to provide emergency shelter and response for South Beach in the event of a catastrophe such as a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, damaging storms or other disasters.

“The WERC will allow for the addition of workforce programs which need specialized facilities and labs,” said OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge. “These are programs which cannot be delivered in the current, wonderful OCCC facilities – and we sincerely thank Lincoln County for voting to approve our current structures 13 years ago.”

Programs under consideration to be based in the WERC, which will be built at OCCC’s Central County Campus in Newport, include Emergency Preparedness and Management, Maritime Technicians, Applied Technology (trades such as welding), and P-12 Teacher Education. The College will rely on community and industry engagement (along with data such as workforce needs projections) to narrow the list. Programs must be viable and draw sustained enrollment year over year.

In order to receive the $8.1 million in funds approved by the state, OCCC has five years to raise the same amount in matching funds, likely through partnerships, the Oregon Coast Community College Foundation, a capital fundraising campaign, grants and a local bond measure.

“We are very excited that the state has approved matching funds for this important project,” Ryslinge said. “As OCCC has progressed in its effort to become independently accredited, we’ve worked with countless local agencies, groups and stakeholders to identify needs in the community. This proposal would provide a spacious, adaptable facility that could be employed to provide specific programming for trades such as welding, electricians, marine technicians and more, and usage could change with changing community needs over time.”


Support from the community

A number of Lincoln County residents submitted letters of support for OCCC’s proposal to the Oregon Legislature this spring, including Bob Cowen, Bruce Polvi, Jay Roelof, and George Polisner, among others. Georgia-Pacific provided the grant which funded the site plan.

“We’ve been deeply moved by the strong support the community has shown from the outset of the planning process for this facility,” Ryslinge said. “And, the support the project has enjoyed from Senator Arnie Roblan and Representative David Gomberg has been wonderful.”


Next steps

Ryslinge said the College will be planning a series of open forums across the county to explain the proposed workforce training center, and the new programs it would make possible, in the coming months. To learn more, follow OCCC on Facebook, watch for updates here on the College’s website, or call 541-867-8501.