Northwest Winemaking Schools Find Funds

Money keeps flowing to viticulture and enology education in Washington and Oregon

by Peter Mitham
Caroline Troy
Caroline Troy
Richland, Wash. -- Students may be getting ready to hit the books, but Northwest viticulture and enology schools are hitting pocketbooks in search of funding for new facilities. The good news is, the pocktetbooks aren’t hard to crack.

The past year saw a historically high level of donations to Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said Caroline Troy, the college’s executive director of development. Donations from commissions, corporations, foundations and individuals topped $15.2 million in 2009, up from more than $10 million in previous years. “We’ve actually been very humbled by the generosity of our donors and have had historical high years, despite the down economy,” Troy told Wines & Vines.

The generosity has buoyed hopes of raising $18 million toward construction of a $26.2 million wine research and teaching center on Port of Benton land next to the WSU campus in Richland. “People have really been digging deep to help us make a transformational difference at the college, and my sense is that we will find that same success in the wine industry,” Troy said.

Ted Baseler
Ted Baseler

A cabinet formed to oversee fundraising from private sources will have its third meeting tomorrow. Cabinet chair Ted Baseler, also president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, said interest from potential donors has been good to date. “Clearly, the economy is not a perfect one in terms of fundraising, but we’re fortunate in that this endeavor is one that seems to strike a tone with not only the industry, both with growers and wineries, but also with people here who take pride in the industry,” he said.

There’s been a similar outpouring of interest and funds across the Northwest. On the one hand, development projects create jobs, and on the other, benefactors see education as key to recovery from the current economic difficulties.

Oregon’s wine industry has raised more than $2 million in support of the Oregon Wine Research Institute at Oregon State University, while Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., has been attracting a steady stream of pledges from donors.

This past spring, Sutherlin, Ore., attorney Danny Lang contributed $800,000 to the school. More recently, the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Indians gave $100,000 to the institute. The college has now raised $5,958,220, or close to 90% of its $6,832,917 target.

“I wouldn’t say that the fundraising is easy, but we believe we have raised more money in a shorter period of time than any other capital campaign in Douglas County,” said Bentley Gilbert, marketing director for the college. “We expect to meet our goal and break ground in the early fall.”

There’s no timeline for the new WSU facility, but Troy expects a clearer vision within six to nine months. A public development authority may be created to oversee the development, too. The success of fundraising efforts, which will begin in earnest this fall, is the key determinant in phasing of the project and how quickly construction proceeds, however.

“(WSU President Elson) Floyd has been very clear that he believes in design-build, and not design wait wait wait wait wait wait and build,” Troy said.

Currently no comments posted for this article.