River city success

River city success

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Above: The Dalles Riverfront Trail leads to The Dalles Dam, which is set to resume tours this year. Tightened security nixed the tours--about 50,000 visits per year--in 2004.
Below: The Union Street underpass helped reconnect The Dalles with the Columbia River in 2004. Future renewal projects could include a railroad underpass to provide safer passage between downtown and the nearby festival plaza.
//Photos by Sierra Breshears
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High above downtown, next to Columbia Gorge Community College, construction on a National Guard readiness center is under way more than a decade after the project idea first came to light. When completed in fall 2013, the $22.5 million, 60,000-square-foot facility will replace an outdated building and free up a valuable piece of downtown property. The National Guard will use it, but it will also be available for weddings and other events. More importantly, however, it will house the college’s new workforce training center and its Renewable Energy Technology training programs to help the region grow its local employment base.

Between two campuses, CGCC has more than 5,000 full- and part-time students. In addition to its nursing program, the school’s RET program, which trains students primarily for work in the wind-energy field, is a popular one. Since 2007, more than 160 students have completed the program, driven in part by the need for wind turbine technicians.

Dan Spatz, a city councilman and chief institutional advancement officer at CGCC, says the program’s focus on electronics and aerodynamics has also piqued the interest of other companies from the Gorge’s tech cluster. One example: Insitu, the Bingen, Wash., manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles.

“There’s really a lot of crossover there, so we’re working closely with them,” Spatz says.

Though the college plays a major role in training workers in the region, Spatz acknowledges the limits of its capabilities.

“To really grow the Insitus of the world — and to bring in new Insitus — we really need R&D,” he says. “And for that, we really need four-year capacity for advanced degrees.”