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City, Centro de Cultural to open economic empowerment center in downtown Hillsboro


New partnership between city and Centro de Cultural hopes to see new workforce center up and running by spring 2017.

Washington County's first workforce and economic empowerment center is coming to downtown Hillsboro this spring.

After more than a year of planning, the city of Hillsboro and Centro Cultural de Washington County announced on Thursday, Jan. 12, the future opening of the Centro de Prosperidad — Center of Prosperity in Spanish.

Now, all they need is a location.

According to city officials, the center will provide services to connect low-income families with living-wage jobs, as well as promote entrepreneurship in the region.

"Not only are we looking at matching jobs, but when they do get hired they'll have case management," said Daniel Rittatore, project manager for the city's Economic Development Department.

The center's staff will focus on helping unemployed people gain language skills and other work skills to assist them in finding a job, as well as helping existing workers gain confidence and skills to move up the wage ladder, Rittatore said. The center will also work with residents who want to start their own small businesses.

The idea, Rittatore said, is to help people build confidence and self-esteem, all while finding a job that best fits.

"This center will help many of our residents get better jobs and launch new start-ups, and help our established businesses by increasing the pool of skilled applicants who are ready to work," said Mayor Steve Callaway in a written statement. "We are ecstatic that our work with Centro Cultural is about to make this a reality."

A variety of downtown sites are being considered for the project, with officials hoping to find a home for the project by late winter or early spring.

The center will be paid for by a community service fee from the Hillsboro Enterprize Zone, which will pitch in $49,865 in funding for the project, followed by an additional $500,000 for the first 17 months of operation, the city said.

The project will work closely with WorkSource ORegon and other workforce-related operations in the region, building on their existing services. Washington County Community Action, Bienestar, Portland Community College, and other organizations will connect to the program by providing housing, childcare, and related support.

City officials said they anticipate additional funding for the project as it moves forward, with the expectation that other organizations and governments will also invest as the project demonstrates its value.

"Centro de Prosperidad will assist Hillsboro adults — especially low-income, Latino, and Enterprise Zone residents — by providing access to culturally responsive resources that build both job skills and self-confidence," said Maria Caballero-Rubio, executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County. "Our residents and families need living-wage careers to become self-sufficient, and the bicultural and bilingual center staff will be open to all, not just the Latino community."

Among the services expected to be offered at Centro de Prosperidad:

• Active outreach to underserved residents, including those who are already employed, but who remain below the federal poverty line or work more than one full time job;

• skill and interest assessments using both tests and individual consultation;

• english language skills education provided via a self-paced language lab;

• case management for low-income residents;

• resource development and procurement for clients, as needed;

• job placement assistance;

• business development coaching;

• and upward mobility strategies and services for low-income workers.