$8 M expansion kindles vision for Mt. Vernon research center

The Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon is growing faster than the seedlings its researchers foster each spring. In response to this rapid growth, Washington State University, in conjunction with outside donors, agreed to an $8 million expansion of the center to be completed by summer 2006.

Infrastructure construction is under way. Demolition of the older buildings, however, is not slated to start until May 2005.

“These are outdated facilities,” said Debra Inglis, director of the center. “The addition is an incentive to be proactive within the agricultural community and will be instrumental in helping to establish a new vision for the center.” The new facility will be about 16,500 square feet — approximately 4,000 square feet larger than the original site built in 1947.

“All of the center’s current research projects will be positively impacted with the addition of improved lab facilities, new offices, a public auditorium for presentations, seminars and workshops, and a demonstration kitchen for new food product demonstrations and experiments,” Inglis said.

The center focuses on helping to ensure a safe and high quality food supply in the Pacific Northwest. Due to the center’s statewide effort to screen many varieties of fruits and vegetables for growth viability in a mild marine climate, there are many specialty varieties now available in the region as locally grown produce.

Other projects at the center include research on fruits and vegetables grown in Western Washington, such as carrots, green peas, onions, potatoes, raspberries, tree fruits, wine grapes, as well as wine and hard cider making.

The expansion is funded by WSU and the surrounding community. President V. Lane Rawlins dedicated $6 million from WSU, $500,000 was donated by Skagit County for infrastructure improvements, and $1.5 million in outside donations is being solicited through the center’s fundraising efforts.

For more information on the Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center, visit the website at http://www.mtvernon.wsu.edu.

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