David Rule, Columbia County Center proponent, heads to Bellevue

Portland Community College’s plan to establish a presence in Columbia County has been put on hold pending the resolution of a recent urban growth boundary appeal.

Meanwhile, the Nov. 8 announcement that PCC Rock Creek Campus President David Rule would be leaving PCC was called “a loss to the community and the campus” by Port of St. Helens Executive Director Patrick Trapp, who described Rule as “very instrumental” in PCC’s vision for Scappoose and St. Helens.

But Rule’s exit is unlikely to halt the proposed Columbia County Center, Trapp and PCC officials agreed.

“PCC is a big enterprise,” Trapp said. “I would like to think that no one person would derail what is a good idea.”

Rule had been a key supporter of the $2.2 million plan PCC unveiled last year to build an educational facility on the southeast edge of the Scappoose Industrial Airpark runway, and to potentially create a regional training center for emergency responders east of SIA. PCC holds two purchase options with Airpark Development LLC, one for a 20-acre parcel that falls within the UGB, and one for a parcel 282 acres east of it.

Rule confirmed in November last year that the PCC board was “dedicated to building a site in Columbia County” and that the properties near the airpark were strategically ideal.

PCC District Vice President Randall McEwen said Rule’s departure did not change PCC’s plans to pursue projects in those two locations.

“We’re still awaiting the UGB decision,” McEwen said, “but the college’s objective as stated by our board to establish a Columbia County Center remains in place.”

“We are going to establish a Columbia County Center,” he added. “That’s irrevocable.”

McEwen said construction of a regional training center was less certain, and described it as “an idea we continue to explore.”

Rule leaves his role as Rock Creek Campus president, which he has held since 2008, to accept the position of president at Bellevue Community College, the largest community college in the state of Washington.

PCC President Preston Pulliams credited Rule with strengthening the college’s relationships with Columbia County leaders.

Kelly Marks, PCC’s external relations coordinator, said PCC has long had an interest in providing educational resources in Columbia County.

“PCC is currently and has consistently been offering college credit classes in Scappoose and St. Helens using high school facilities,” she said.

The PCC Columbia County Center is expected to be an economic boon to the cities of Scappoose and St. Helens, adding administrative and education jobs. A regional training center would increase employment in the hospitality and retail sectors in order to meet the needs of local- and federal-level emergency responder trainees.

“It would be a nexus to drive aviation-related industrial opportunities to the area,” Trapp said.

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