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City trying to save jobs center

Budget woes - Forest Grove recruits partners in an effort to retain workforce training facility
by: Chase Allgood, Finding a new location for Forest Grove’s job training center could be key to keeping it open.

The City of Forest Grove might be playing a bigger role in helping the area's unemployed. That is, if a proposal to restructure Forest Grove's primary workforce-training facility passes muster.

Last month Jeff King, the city's economic development director, found out that Worksystems, Inc, was considering closing its job-training center on Pacific Avenue in Forest Grove.

Officials from the non-profit group said they have been hit hard by federal budget cuts and may have to close some of their job-training centers if state and local governments and other nonprofit groups don't pitch in. ('Changes ahead at Forest Grove workforce center,' News-Times, March 26, 2008.)

The city responded by recruiting Adelante Mujeres, Portland Community College and Pacific University to sign on to a proposal which would provide micro-economic development aid, work study, and other job-training efforts.

'We've definitely been beneficiaries of the Worksource site here in Forest Grove,' said Bridget Cooke, executive director of Adelente Mujeres, a nonprofit group that works to give Hispanic women job skills. 'We've relied on the services to supplement the job readiness training that we do with our students.

'When we heard that it was going to be closing we were of course concerned,' Cooke added, 'not just for our program but also for the community.'

Cooke's six-year-old nonprofit organization, which has an office on 19th Avenue in Forest Grove, is at the center of the proposal being pitched to Worksystems, Inc.

The city will provide outreach to community partners in an effort to secure space, which will need to come on the cheap.

If Worksystems approves the proposal, the city and Adelante Mujeres would then iron out the fine details.

'What we hope to do is get a placeholder and then we can negotiate more closely exactly what it will look like and where it will be, what the rent will be,' said King, who added that the city can't offer any money for the effort.

'We'll be a partner, not monetarily but through other ways,' King said. 'We'll work with the private sector to find low-cost space or donated space that will go to the nonprofit.'

Cooke said that if the proposal gets the OK, the training facility and Adelante Mujeres could share space, so that anyone who walks through the doors would have access to help completing their GED, parenting support and the nonprofit's micro-enterprise training.

But space is the key, King said, since it's unlikely the coalition could pay market rate for the 2,000-3,000 square-feet it needs.

The right property owner, however, may be willing to cut a deal.

'It might be a real win-win because it'd be a tax write-off donation to a nonprofit,' King said.