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Oregon Tech on board for manufacturing center

University is a key partner in the center for manufacturing research

Details of a forthcoming manufacturing innovation center have been slow to emerge, but the Oregon Institute of Technology has already committed up to $1.75 million toward a property purchase in Scappoose.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTLAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE - The Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Sheffield, England, provides a space for workforce training, as well as research and development. The site would be used as a model for a similar center slated to be developed in Scappoose.Oregon Tech, a Klamath Falls-based polytechnic university, announced in a news release Monday that the college’s board of trustees unanimously voted to move forward with investing in property for the project, solidifying the school’s involvement in the innovation center.

Portland Community College announced the project in March after the approval of $7.4 milion in funds from the state Legislature, to aid in the project’s development.

A business plan for the venture, which aims to develop a center where students can receive workforce training in engineering fields, while companies like Boeing can benefit from having space for research and development, has been submitted to the state, but has yet to be released.

The project has already adopted several names, including the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, as Portland Community College calls it, and the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center, as it’s been dubbed by Oregon Tech.

“We’re very excited at Oregon Tech to be part of the planning of the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center,” Laura McKinney, vice president of OIT’s campus in Wilsonville, said in a statement. “It’s still the early stages, but the academic and industry partners are collaborating to keep the process moving. As we have new milestones, we’ll let all the stakeholders know.”

OIT plans to use a site in the county to offer classes, laboratories and applied research, which it doesn’t have the capacity to do at its Wilsonville location.

“Currently, there is no floor space at the Wilsonville campus for equipment to use for applied research,” an OIT news release states. “Besides all of the opportunities to partner with industry and engage our faculty and students in applied research, this type of effort provides Oregon Tech with the ability to bring in different revenue other than state funds to pay for faculty in mechanical and manufacturing engineering.”

The parcel in Scappoose being eyed to house the center is valued at about $4.2 million, but would require roughly $1.5 million in infrastructure improvements, OIT noted in the press release. The Legislature would provide $2.5 million, OIT would contribute a share, and other partners would pay in as well.

“An ideal facility has been identified, but would require some preliminary, quick action by the Board to approve some investment in this existing building,” the OIT news release states.

The manufacturing and research center is based on a model already operating in Sheffield, England. That center houses company facilities from the likes of Boeing and Rolls Royce.

Aside from PCC, which is heavily invested in the project because of the college’s obligation to use a portion of its 2008 bond funds to develop an educational center in Columbia County, other universities like Portland State University and Oregon State University have signaled initial commitments, according to OIT.

Business Oregon will also play a key role in the center’s development, likely acting as the fiscal agent, responsible for managing $7.5 million in lottery dollars set aside by the state for the research and development component of the project.