State allots $5 million for WSU wine center

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WALLA WALLA -- A robust industry in Washington got a little more juice when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a state budget April 23 that includes $5 million toward building the Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

The state funding and money pledged from other sources for the project now total nearly $13.5 million, enough for the school to start building on the 45,000-square-foot center next year, according to the Tri-City Herald.

The wine center will provide the industry with a research and education center and complement the two-year degree programs in viticulture and enology at Walla Walla Community College.

Costs to complete the center are projected at $23.25 million and would include design, construction and equipment wine production, research and education.

The Port of Benton is providing 3.5 acres near the WSU Tri-Cities vineyard to build the center.

The Washington Wine Commission has pledged $7.4 million to the project from increased assessments statewide on wine and grape production. That will be combined with the $1 million in WSU donations made so far.

A day after Gregoire approved the state's spending budget, the Wine Commission released a report showing the economic impact of the state wine industry.

Washington is the second largest wine producer in the nation behind California, which makes 90 percent of U.S. wines.

The commission's report said Washington wines contribute $8.6 billion annually to the state economy and $14.9 billion to the nation's economy.

The in-state amount is nearly triple the $3 billion a study in 2007 reported.

The commission is funded by state growers and vintners. The report was contracted to a California research firm.

Washington has 739 licensed wineries and 350 vineyards, employing about 30,000 people.

The number of Washington acres planted in wine grapes has grown to nearly 44,000. That's just short of the roughly 45,000 vineyard acres in California's Napa Valley alone.

The study also provided a snapshot of the industry's economic impact on Washington counties.

The industry in metropolitan King County, where the state's largest producer, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, is headquartered in Woodinville along with a number of other wineries and tasting rooms, contributed $3 billion.

Benton County contributed $927 million; Yakima County, $527 million; Walla Walla County, $502 million; Grant County, $227 million; and Chelan County, $221 million.

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