More than $17 million has been raised for the research and teaching facility.
Ted Baseler, center, is joined in raising a toast to the new Wine Science Center with WSU President Elson Floyd, left, Governor Christine Gregoire, and David Porter of the U.S. Department of Commerce, right.
A who’s who list of wine, education, and government dignitaries gathered under blustery skies Friday, October 19, on a dirt lot of Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus to dedicate the site of a new state-of-the-art wine research and teaching facility. With more than $17 million raised toward the project’s fundraising goal of $23.25 million, the day also channeled momentum for final fundraising efforts.
Construction of the Wine Science Center, to be built on land donated by the Port of Benton, is scheduled to begin next fall. The City of Richland, through an economic development authority, will oversee construction and financing of the Wine Science Center; upon completion, the development authority will turn it over to WSU.
The center represents collaboration between industry and the university, said Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and chair of the WSU Wine Campaign Committee. “Washington’s wine industry came from nowhere, and we’re now the second-largest wine-producing state in the nation,” he said. “Every great wine-producing region has a flagship research institute that serves its region. We will soon have that.”
He commended the industry groups of the Washington Wine Commission and Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers for supporting and providing leadership to fulfill the research needs identified by an industry research task force.
During the site dedication ceremonies, Baseler, who is a WSU Regent and alum said he was amazed at how fast the funds came together, especially considering fundraising was conducted under difficult economic times.
The Washington Wine Commission pledged $7.4 million toward the center last year, which will be raised through grower and winery assessments. Earlier this year, Washington State announced that $5 million in capital funds were included in the state budget. During the ceremony, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration announced that $2.06 million for equipment and furnishing was just awarded to the center.
The Port of Benton’s in-kind land donation is estimated at $350,000. Terence Thornhill, Pasco, has donated $150,000 of in-kind architectural and design services. It was reported that Spokane Industries just pledged to donate $600,000 worth of stainless steel tanks.
Industry donors have also contributed individual gifts and grants, including a $1 million gift from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and its parent company Altria Group to support scholarships, program growth, and startup funding for equipment for a wine chemist position and other faculty support.
Another $4 million is needed to allow construction to be completed in one phase instead of two. Campaign committee members, like Baseler, believe that goal is doable in the next year.
Governor Christine Gregoire, although nearing the end of her term, also participated in the dedication and thanked those who have been a part of the campaign. “This is an important day for us to celebrate. The 6.7 million people of the state are proud to contribute $5 million to the Wine Science Center. We need more research and applied research and it’s critical that we meet the needs of our state and for future generations.”
Groundbreaking is slated for next fall, with construction expected to take 12 months. It’s possible that the center could crush its first grapes during the 2014 harvest, say WSU officials.
Steve Warner, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, said it’s vital that a research facility be located in Washington wine country, conducting work under Washington conditions. The dedication ceremony shows the maturity of an industry that adds $8.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.
Melissa Hansen is the research program director for the Washington Wine Commission. Hansen previously was an associate editor at Good Fruit Grower from 1996 through 2015.
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