Gresham leaders laud site for center

Manufacturing research facility would fit at Mt. Hood, they say

Plans to build a world-class manufacturing research and development center in the Portland-metro area have pumped up East County leaders, who say they've got everything the center needs, from the perfect site to the ideal education partner.

Now all they have to do is convince the Portland-based Manufacturing 21 Coalition to place their 86,000-square-foot research center on Mt. Hood Community College's back 40 acres.

'The competition is pretty stiff … and we looked at a number of sites in the four cities, but when it came to sites in East County, Mt. Hood Community College really stood out,' says Travis Stovall, interim director of the East Metro Economic Alliance.

The community college, along with the city of Troutdale and the East Metro Economic Alliance, will submit a proposal to the manufacturing coalition next week.

Under this proposal, which Stovall calls 'very preliminary,' the college would offer control and development rights to the entire 38.4 acres on its northern edge for developing the coalition's Center for Manufacturing and Infrastructure Engineering, for 25 years.

Founded nearly two years ago by private companies and public agencies, the Manufacturing 21 Coalition' goal is to support and advocate for manufacturers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

One way of doing this, according to the coalition, is to create a modern research and development center to educate the region's work force; test new materials and manufacturing technologies; and become a magnet for the area's manufacturing and infrastructure engineering clusters.

The coalition, which is made up of manufacturing leaders, such as Boeing, Freightliner and Oregon Steel Mills, sees the center as 'a one-stop location for industry information, training and applied research and development.'

According to the request for proposals sent out by the coalition, the new center would 'address two primary issues confronting Oregon and Southwest Washington manufacturers: a severe work force shortage; and the ability to conduct high level research and development focused on maintaining a worldwide competitive advantage through the use of value-added manufacturing.'

Gov. Ted Kulongoski deemed the planned manufacturing center one of Oregon's two 'Signature Research Centers,' and Stovall says the center would bring at least a dozen high paying jobs to the area.

'Once the operation is up and running, there would be between 10 and 15 positions, engineering folks mainly, that would pay between $60,000 and $70,000 a year plus benefits,' Stovall says. '

According to the proposal being submitted by Oct. 25, Mt. Hood Community College would provide much more than project-ready land. College leaders envision collaborating with the center to provide education and training opportunities, and to act as a bridge to the local business community.

The college has several programs that would tie in nicely to a manufacturing research center, including courses such as machine tool technology; sheet metal technology; engineering technology; and business management.

Competition may be stiff, but the Mt. Hood spot has many things going for it, including:

• A green field site that has already been deemed 'project ready.'

• Industrial Park zoning, which includes research and light manufacturing facilities.

• A site that is within 20 miles of air, rail and water ports.

• Partners in the form of the college, the city of Troutdale and the East Metro Economic Alliance.

The proposals will make their way back to the Manufacturing 21 Coalition next week and coalition leaders are expected to narrow their search by the end of October.

East County leaders will know by November if they've made the final cut, and Stovall says, regardless of whether the coalition picks the Mt. Hood site, the project has brought the cities of East County together.

'There has been so much cooperation between the cities of Gresham and Troutdale and the college,' Stovall said. 'We could use this as a model of how East County can play up this type of cooperation and really bring us together as a region.'