Breaking ground: Workforce education facility construction underway

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Dirt flew as Big Bend Community College officials celebrated construction of the new workforce education center with a groundbreaking ceremony.

MOSES LAKE — Dirt flew and spirits were high as Big Bend Community College officials celebrated construction of the new workforce education center with a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.

“All right. Let’s do this,” said James Sauceda, BBCC’s director of facilities and capital projects, as he led the way to the construction site on Bolling Avenue.

The new 70,000-square-foot workforce education center has “been a long time coming,” said Daneen Berry-Guerin, dean of workforce education. The arrival of the construction trailer was a confirmation the project really is underway, she said. “Wow, this is really going to happen. It’s really going to happen.”

“It’s somewhat safe to say it’s an historic moment in the evolution of our college,” said BBCC president Terry Leas.

“It took many years of work to arrive at this groundbreaking,“ said Juanita Richards, chair of the college’s board of trustees. The college’s workforce education programs have been housed in buildings that date back to the days when the Big Bend campus was Larson Air Force Base.

The program has produced quality training for its students, and now the facilities will match the quality of the instruction, Berry-Guerin said.

Angie Clark, president of the BBCC Foundation, said workforce training will be “critical” to sustaining local industry, a sentiment echoed by state Rep. Tom Dent. There is high demand in fields like aviation mechanics, welders, pilots, auto mechanics, he said.

In addition, Dent said he’s a supporter of as many options as possible for kids, and that workforce education programs will attract youths who might otherwise lose interest in school. Money for the project came through the state’s capital budget – which, said state Sen. Judy Warnick, is an investment. In her opinion one of the most important investments in that budget is higher education, both four-year universities and community colleges.

Construction is expected to last about 18 months for the main building. A separate facility will house the aviation maintenance program.

“We can’t wait for the ribbon-cutting,” Berry-Guerin said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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