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Wine Programs on a Budget

Northwest colleges get creative to secure funds in a tight economy

by Peter Mitham
Southern Oregon Wine Institute
The Southern Oregon Wine Institute expects to move into its new Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center next year.
Roseburg, Ore. -- Northwest colleges are majoring in economics as they strive to do more with less in the face of state budget cutbacks. Umpqua Community College saw a 5% cut in state funds for instruction during the most recent budget cycle, which allocates education funds biennially. Donations from private sources -- such as an $800,000 contribution from Sutherlin, Ore., attorney Danny Lang toward the Southern Oregon Wine Institute -- are now vital.

“It’s the community recognizing that there’s not going to be as much government funding available to do projects like this. The community sees the long-term goal of building projects like this,” SOWI director Chris Lake told Wines & Vines. “Then the college can focus whatever other government resources they’ve got on other programs.”

Past sources of financial support for SOWI, founded in 2008, include the Douglas County Industrial Development Board Fund ($200,000), the State of Oregon ($93,000) and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians ($50,000), which provided funds for the institute’s first two years of operation. Umpqua was also one of 20 community colleges to receive a $100,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Workforce and Economic Opportunity Initiative, a fund administered by the American Association of Community Colleges. U.S. Department of Agriculture rural enterprise funding provided another $100,000 for equipment purchases.

Lake expects about half the $8 million required to construct a permanent home for SOWI will come from private donations, which the college will solicit in earnest later this month. Remaining funding will come from the low-interest loans available to UCC as a state-backed institution. The building, set to open in September 2011, will offer 24,000 square feet of teaching and event space known as the Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center.

While funds from upper levels of government are available for the construction of facilities such as that planned by UCC, Lake explained that federal programs typically match private funds rather than provide full funding.

“When you’ve got private funding coming, they’ll help by matching that and help you grow. Once it’s up and running though, it’s got to be self-sustaining and not a recurring state fund that keeps us going,” Lake said.

Center will be self-supporting
Danny Lang Oregon Wine
Oregon attorney Danny Lang demonstrated his support to SOWI by donating $800,000 to build it a permanent home.
Renting the Lang Center for private functions will generate some of the revenues for ongoing operations of the facility, Lake said. Ultimately, it’s hoped the facility will be an amenity to the community as well as a linchpin in the local wine industry’s development. The college claims Southern Oregon has the potential to garner 5,000 additional jobs related to the wine industry, worth approximately $115 million.

“Lang saw this as an opportunity to advance the mission of the college and provide stimulus for the economic development in the community. When he gives like that, it inspires other people in the community to think, ‘This is beyond just a wine program, this is an economic issue,’” Lake said.

UCC’s approach to managing its finances mirrors that of other schools, such as Oregon State University, which has made the directorship of the Oregon Wine Research Institute a tenure-track position. This move leverages state funds to extend the duration of the $2 million industry has already raised for the institute’s operations.

“When you look at OSU, they’re talking about a 10% cut in (state) funding,” Lake said. “So they’re very careful about how they align their instruction, that they’re using their resources -- the state recurring revenues -- very carefully.”

Meanwhile, Washington State University succeeded in halting a bid by legislators in Olympia to eliminate all state funding for agricultural research (see “Grapegrowers in Fighting Form,” Wines & Vines headline, Feb. 5, 2010). The loss would have saved the state approximately $21 million. Instead, the school took a hit to its research budget of just 6.5% for the coming fiscal year.

“The agricultural research funding was not reduced disproportionately, as was earlier proposed,” Dan Bernardo, dean of the school’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences and director, WSU Extension, told Wines & Vines. “Given the state of the Washington budget, this is an outcome that we can live with.”
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