Tech college shows interest in developing in St. Helens, Scappoose
Columbia County could realize a new higher education opportunity if discussions with the Port of Columbia County pan out.
Port officials confirmed this week that Perry Technical Institute, a private nonprofit college focused on technical training programs, is looking at potentially expanding operations by establishing satellite locations in St. Helens or Scappoose — or both.
The college, which currently offers 13 separate training programs on topics ranging from electrical technology and construction to welding and medical assistance, is based in Yakima, Washington.
Doug Hayes, executive director with the Port of Columbia County, said talks with PTI have been ongoing since May.
The talks have been preliminary, Hayes noted, though PTI officials have toured sites in St. Helens and Scappoose. Some of the discussion has touched on developing facilities in both St. Helens and Scappoose, but it's too early to tell.
"Just to be clear, I think it's a great fit, but it's early," Hayes said. "Be patient."
Hayes said he has always thought a trade school education opportunity in Columbia County would be a good fit for the community.
"I've been wanting an education institution out here for quite a long time. I've seen the need for it," Hayes said.
After contacting several trade schools on the East Coast, Hayes learned about PTI in Washington and reached out to them directly. Hayes said he has primarily been working with PTI's president.
"We got to talking and they were looking at potentially expanding anyway, so it was very fortuitous," Hayes said.
If the discussions do continue and the college expresses serious interest in developing in Columbia County, there will be many phases to formalizing the partnership.
"If they are interested and they do want to come, the first semi-official step would be a LOI, or letter of intent," Hayes explained. "Then it allows the port to do their work. From there would be an MOA (memorandum of agreement) or lease."
Officials with the school are also expected to be in the county next week and a representative will be attending the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center's Manufacturing Day held on Friday, Oct. 4.
PTI was recognized in the New York Times as the top two-year college for income mobility in 2017. Income mobility is the ability of a person to change their economic status.
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