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Perry Technical Institute, a private not-for-profit technical school based in Yakima, Washington, could be establishing a satellite campus in Columbia County, although plans are still very tentative at the moment.

“It’s not set in stone yet, but it’s certainly going down the right path,” Douglas Hayes, executive director for the Port of Columbia County said.

Hayes said the Port has been in talks with Perry Tech since May of this year. During the Wednesday, Sept. 25 Port work session, Hayes mentioned representatives from Perry Tech would be visiting Columbia County next week, and said they were very interested in establishing a satellite campus. The representatives will have a table at Manufacturing Day, an event hosted by the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC), on Oct. 4. Hayes said they will also be meeting with the Port that day, and there is an additional follow-up meeting scheduled for November.

Hayes was the party who initiated contact with Perry Tech.

“I always felt that having a technical school here would be a great fit for the community,” Hayes said. “Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college, but they want to be trained in a skill that would be profitable.”

Christine Cote, President of Perry Tech, said while the technical college is still in the initial stages of exploring a satellite campus option, they were interested in branching out because their current school is at capacity.

“We have more students than ever in the history of the school,” Cote said, adding the school has waiting lists for some programs. “In the electrical program, if you walked in today it would be March of 2021 before you could get a spot.”

There have been two visits between the parties so far, with Hayes visiting their current campus, and Perry Tech having visited Columbia County two weeks ago to tour some property. It is still not yet finalized where the site of the satellite campus would be, Hayes said.

According to Cote, the Perry Tech campus has been operating for 80 years as a single campus.

“We’ve never branched out at all, and it’s a very big step if we are to do that,” Cote said.

Cote said the school is also in talks with the Port of Kalama, in Washington.

Hayes mentioned he had reached out to another technical school, but the process was going more slowly with that institution. He said he is still hopeful with getting the other school to establish itself in Columbia County as well, and he believes the two schools can complement each other.

Provided that the process moves forward with establishing a Perry Tech satellite campus, the first step would be to create a Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI would allow the Port to do some detailed studies and design work when it comes to land and building designs, Hayes said. After that, the next step would be to develop a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), or even a lease.

It is likely that when the satellite campus is established, it will start with three or four incubator-type classes to get started before growing from there, although Hayes noted that Perry Tech is interested in having a conversation with local industries to determine what would be the best startup classes for the institution.

While the primary goal of establishing the campus is to provide an additional educational opportunity for students, Hayes said he thinks the campus could serve as a catalyst for bringing more business as well, as well as benefiting already existing businesses.

“Something like this would be a benefit to OMIC and industries within the county, as well as the greater Portland region to have a trained workforce available,” Hayes said.

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