RICHLAND, Wash. — Wine industry leaders from across the state gathered Friday to announce $17 million raised to date, and $4 million still needed, for the future Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities.
About 150 people, from donors to students, joined Governor Christine Gregoire and WSU President Elson S. Floyd to dedicate the site at the corner of George Washington Way and University Drive in Richland.
“Every world-renowned wine region has a research university partnering in its success. In Washington, that’s Washington State University,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a WSU Regent and chair of the WSU Campaign for Wine.
The research and teaching conducted inside the Wine Science Center will be specific to the challenges and opportunities faced by grape-growers and wine-makers in Washington state, and will help triple the economic impact of an industry that already is worth $8.6 billion.
“Having this research facility is critical to the continued growth of our Pacific Northwest wine industry,” Baseler said. “Research will ensure that we produce the best wine grapes. Research will then help us make great wines with distinct flavors that become sought after internationally. This facility and the teaching program at WSU will produce a workforce pipeline of trained WSU graduates – for our vineyards, for our wineries – and all the allied industries that work with us.”
The event was preceded by the ceremonial signing of the $5 million Legislative Award. This capital investment toward Wine Science Center construction was requested through the City of Richland and the Tri-Cities Research District, championed by Sen. Jerome Delvin and Rep. Larry Haler, and approved by the Legislature this spring.
“We had a great vision for a Wine Science Center, but it was new to WSU’s capital project list,” Baseler recalled. “President Floyd, recognizing this ‘big idea,’ said, ‘Find another way to build it now, with other community partners taking the lead.’ The City of Richland and the Port of Benton immediately stepped forward.”
Two new partners were announced at Friday’s event:
David Porter with the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced a $2.06 million grant to WSU “to support the purchase of equipment to be used in product development and workforce training in Benton and Franklin counties.”
Greg Tenold, president of Spokane Industries, pledged an in-kind donation of $600,000 worth of stainless steel wine tanks to help equip the facility.
Major donors to the Wine Science Center were recognized, including the Washington State Wine Commission for its $7.4 million contribution through industry assessments.
“I’m pleased to announce, with the $17 million we have now, we can move forward with Phase I construction in fall 2013,” Baseler said. “However, this is not enough. We’d like to construct the whole facility up-front. All of us who have built things know that this is more cost-efficient. Our goal is to raise an additional $4 million over the next nine months so that we can break ground a year from now on our full vision.”
WSU has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s and is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering bachelor’s degrees in Viticulture and Enology and in Wine Business Management — plus graduate studies in all areas of Viticulture and Enology, and a two-year distance education program to earn a professional certificate. Thomas Henick-Kling joined WSU in 2009 as director of the Viticulture and Enology program, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Pullman.
“This dedication marks an important milestone in the progress towards opening what will be a LEED-certified facility,” said James R. Pratt, interim chancellor of WSU Tri-Cities. “The facility will include extensive state-of-the-art research laboratories, a teaching winery and vineyard, a regional and international wine library, classrooms, conference rooms, and lecture halls — all connecting WSU’s viticulture and enology faculty and students with industry and research partners worldwide.”
Baseler noted that University of California Davis completed its research winery just two years ago and is mentoring WSU through the design process.
“It took U.C. Davis decades to bring that vision to reality,” Baseler said. “All of our successes for the Wine Science Center have been accomplished in just two short years.”
About WSU Tri-Cities
WSU Tri-Cities is located along the scenic Columbia River in Richland, Wash. Established in 1989 with upper division and graduate programs, WSU Tri-Cities expanded in 2007 to a full four-year undergraduate campus offering 18 bachelor’s, 10 master’s, and six doctoral degree programs. Learn about the most diverse campus in the WSU system at www.tricity.wsu.edu and about WSU’s Viticulture and Enology programs at wine.wsu.edu.