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BBCC proposes Tech Hub for Grant, Adams

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | August 24, 2023 1:30 AM

OTHELLO — The Adams County Board of Commissioners met in Othello on Wednesday and heard a presentation from the Othello School District and Big Bend Community College on making Grant and Adams a national tech hub and supporting Othello students along the way.

Big Bend Community College Vice President of Instructional Programs and Student Services Bryce Humpherys and Othello School District Student Services Director Amy Parris, who is also on the Big Bend board of trustees, ran the presentation.

“Bryce and I are a couple of people in a big group of partners,” said Parris. “One of the things that I got to be involved with with Big Bend … is this Tech Hub project, which is potentially a huge boost to our region.”

The Tech Hub project, originally called The Regional Technology and Innovation Hub program, is provided through the Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said Humpherys. The program is funded by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

“The idea is to try to recreate something like Silicon Valley but for other technologies, something that would become a hotbed, if you will, for a certain technology that will support businesses and workforce development around that technology for the foreseeable future,” said Humpherys.

CHIPS is an acronym for “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors” according to Public Law No. 117-167, the administrative name of the Act.

The Economic Development Administration divided the United States into six regions, each with multiple Tech Hubs, said Humpherys. The EDA website elaborates on this.

“EDA will designate at least 20 Tech Hubs across the country and will separately award approximately $15 million in strategy development grants to accelerate the development of future Tech Hubs. The Tech Hubs designation will be a widely recognized indicator of a region’s potential for rapid technology-led economic growth,” stated the website.

According to the EDA website, the second phase of the project will award “implementation awards” to at least five of the Tech Hubs designated in the first phase. The website did not state any specifics about what the implementation award provides, other than continued federal investment in the Tech Hubs’ success.

“We spent quite a few months, the last several months, networking with organizations across the state and the Pacific Northwest to pull together a consortium to submit this proposal,” said Humpherys. “The competition is quite stiff.”

Humpherys said the three main leaders of the consortium are Clean Tech Alliance, the University of Washington Clean Energy Institute and Big Bend Community College. The consortium submitted their proposal to be considered a Tech Hub on August 15 and they will find out in the next few months whether Grant and Adams Counties are granted the designation.

Parris also took time during the presentation to discuss several ongoing and future partnerships between the Othello School District, Big Bend and Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center that would benefit from funding from the Tech Hub project, including an Associate’s Degree program in the Othello School District as well a learning center in Othello.

“We're maybe just months away from being able to roll out a program where our students won't have to leave Othello, our high school kids, and if they take a certain progression of courses, they'll be able to earn their (associate degree) by the time they graduate. So, this has been a long time coming,” said Parris.

Humpherys spoke in more detail about the possibility of a learning center in Othello that would also decrease transportation issues and costs for Othello students pursuing higher education.

“The goal is to have a center where you can take the classes that are offered at CB Tech for juniors and seniors in high school, this learning center being an extension of CB Tech…here in Othello,” said Humpherys.

The idea would be to use some of the Tech Hub project funding toward putting a dedicated building in Othello, said Humpherys. Even if Grant and Adams Counties are not selected as a Tech Hub, Humpherys said that Big Bend would still pursue the vision of a learning center in Othello and other cities outside of Moses Lake.

“If we don't get the money, in my mind this is not hinging on whether or not we get the Tech Hub money,” said Humpherys. “We've started some really rich conversations with the school districts. Moses Lake, Othello, Mattawa, Quincy, about this learning center.”

Humpherys and Parris said that they came to the Adams County Commissioners to keep them informed about the Tech Hub project and learning centers and the possibilities they might bring for the county so that the commissioners can provide their support and partnership to the project if it needs it.

“I think that pretty much anything that does something better for the community and the kids is kind of a no-brainer,” said Commissioner Jay R. Weise, “especially in these changing times to make sure that opportunity is always offered, or entertained at least.”

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Othello School District Student Services Director Amy Parris, left, and Big Bend Community College Vice President of Instructional Programs and Student Services Bryce Humpherys, right, presented information to the Adams County Commissioners on a recent application from Grant and Adams Counties organizations to be designated a federal Tech Hub.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Adams County commissioners listen to the presentation on the Tech Hub project. The Commissioners said that they would be likely to support the project and other partnerships between the Othello School District and Big Bend Community College.