Southwestern wins grant to renovate CTE program buildings

Anne Matthews News

Coos Bay, OR – The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) a $2.75 million grant to modernize two buildings on its Coos Bay campus. 

The college will renovate Coaledo Hall to create space for the Forestry and Natural Resources Program, along with cybersecurity/computer science technology-rich classrooms.

With the opening of the new, state-of-the-art Nursing labs, the college is able to modernize Sumner Hall with new classrooms and labs to serve Fire Science, Criminal Justice and Dental Assisting students.

With these funds, the college can modernize 18,000 sq. ft. of space in Coaledo and Sumner Halls. Built in 1965 and 1982 respectively, the buildings house the college’s original science labs and former nursing lab. With the opening of Umpqua Hall, the new health and science technology building, SWOCC is able renovate these now-vacant labs to create modern, technology rich classrooms, faculty offices and flexible student collaboration space. 

The U.S. EDA funds will help SWOCC clear out 1965-era former chemistry and biology labs in Coaledo Hall to create flexible, modern spacse for students pursuing careers in forestry, natural resource management and computer science.

The project directly benefits Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs, including Forestry/Natural Resources, Fire Science, Dental Assisting and Cybersecurity/Computer Science certificate and degree pathways. 

“We know that with an aging workforce, increasing retirements and the impacts of COVID, our business partners are counting on us to train even more entry-level foresters, dental assistants, firefighters and programmers. This project will help us meet those needs,” said Ali Mageehon, SWOCC’s vice president of instruction. “Investments like this also help the college hire and keep the best instructors, who want to teach in modern environments that improve their efficiency and effectiveness.”

When SWOCC invests in programs, it creates a spin-off effect in the economy. In writing the grant, SWOCC and its business partners estimated the project will create 127 jobs, help retain 314 jobs and lead to $160,000 in private investment. 

“We also are preserving one of the college’s original buildings, Coaledo Hall. Over the past 56 years, thousands of people started their career training in Coaledo Hall. We are pleased to save it,” said SWOCC President Patty Scott. “SWOCC staff work hard to make effective use of public funds. Now, we can give this building a new life for decades to come.” 

This is the second U.S. Economic Development Administration investment on the Coos Bay campus in the past five years. Previously, EDA provided grant funding for the new Umpqua Hall.

“It is very hard for community colleges in rural Oregon to come up with the money for projects like this. The state of Oregon generously provides 50% matching grants, and still many colleges struggle for years to meet those matches if at all,” President Scott said. “With EDA’s investments, SWOCC and other colleges remain competitive. We can build excellent facilities and continue to provide excellent training to our students.”