EDITORIAL: TVCC grant opens door for local economic innovation

Christmas has come early for Treasure Valley Community College, which just learned it’s getting $3 million to bolster its ability to train labor and strengthen business. This is the latest in a string of developments lately that suggest Malheur County’s economy is in for expansion and stability.

This is a key event for the community. For too long, we’ve been losing talented and skilled people who leave the area for better jobs elsewhere. They take their families, their earning power, and their futures with them. For people who do elect to stay, too many feel stuck in less-than-satisfying jobs and unable to get something better. At the same time, local firms can’t find enough workers for the jobs they have. Companies make do, trying to train in house or adjusting operations to match production with the bodies available to do the work.

Treasure Valley is now poised to have a big impact on all of that. The $3 million from the federal Economic Development Administration will be used to retool the college’s Vo-Tech Building. The college already had a promise of $2.8 million from the state and needs about $170,000 out of its own treasury to make this work. The retrofit will greatly expand the building that is outdated and cramped.

But this isn’t really about more floor space. This is about more teaching space. The college persuaded federal officials that our region can see a strong increase in jobs – if employers know there are workers available. The college will build on training programs in everything from welding to automated controls.

A modern training program could have deep and lasting impacts on Malheur County. High school graduates, for instance, may be more enticed to stick around if they are getting training for attractive, well-paying jobs. Companies are more likely to expand or even move to Malheur County if they know they have a college partner to train workers.

President Dana Young and her team get credit for this development. They tried to persuade voters last fall to fund this project, and the community said no. Instead of giving up, Young sought another way to make the remodel a reality. She believes that strongly in the need for her college and for her community. And the college clearly made a convincing case to federal officials. They apparently appreciated the economic challenges in Malheur County, saw a chance to affect the future of young people not only in Oregon but cross border in Idaho, and appreciated the local focus on vocational and technical education by the college, high schools, and local business and political leaders.

While this is great news, there is considerable work ahead. The college should continue to sharpen and refine its vision for this development. Let’s lean forward, anticipating where the best high-paying jobs might be and position our students to get them. Young already has plans to bring back into the room the industry and business leaders who helped shape this project. They should not hesitate to step back in, and they should challenge themselves to consider where their firms and the local economy will be in 10 to 15 years.

As a community, we have a chance to fashion future training that will keep and lure the kind of employers we want who have the jobs people desire. The hard work by Young’s team has made that possible. Let’s all help her and Treasure Valley make the very most of this opportunity. — LZ