Plans to grow Washington state's wine industry by establishing a Washington State University wine science center in the Tri-Cities is a wise move.
The state's wine industry, despite the lousy economy, remains hot -- and there is plenty of room for growth.
Just look what's going on here. Walla Walla Community College's Institute for Enology and Viticulture, a school that provides students hands-on experience in winemaking, growing practices and sales, is at full enrollment for the coming school year. The demand is there to expand wine education.
WSU's proposed program, however, is not epected to be a duplication of what is offered at WWCC. It is designed as a complement to the local program, WWCC President Steve VanAusdle said.
"We are going to cooperate with WSU in the interest of the industry. They will have a much more scientific approach ... it's crucial to work together to avoid duplication of efforts."
Washington state's government is hurting. State lawmakers are looking to make even more cuts in the coming year, many of which could likely be felt in higher education. Given that, it makes little sense to offer similar programs, particularly when the schools are geographically close.
VanAusdle said WSU's four-year program would mesh well with Walla Walla's highly regarded two-year program. Students who need to learn more about wine and the wine industry could transfer from WWCC to WSU to earn their four-year degree. The WSU program will focus on wine research, which would help the overall industry. This has worked well for WSU with other crops. WSU, for example, is a leader in wheat research.
Better crops mean a better end product and more profit.
Still, this endeavor won't be easy -- or cheap.
A fundraising drive has started with the goal of raising up to 70 percent of the estimated $26.2 million cost to build and furnish a state-of-the-art wine research and teaching facility on four acres of Port of Benton land adjacent to the WSU branch campus in Richland, the Tri-City Herald reported.
WWCC has been a leader in the wine industry. Working with WSU to expand the knowledge of wine and winemaking is an important step in growing the industry in Washington state.
It's particularly important for this region. A wine science center, which would serve to enhance what's going on a WWCC, is a project the state and the wine industry should support.