Clatsop County residents might see a lot of University of Oregon merchandise around town, but Oregon State University is the one truly “on the ground” in Clatsop County.
OSU President Edward Ray came to Astoria Tuesday to talk about how OSU’s impact on the economic development and social progress for the people of Oregon continues, even in the midst of a recession.
A recent impact analysis of OSU by ECONorthwest of Portland estimated the university’s global impact at $2.06 billion – $1.932 billion of that in Oregon – in direct, indirect and induced economic impact, larger than any other public university in the state.
The forum was organized by the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce and Clatsop Economic Development Resources.
OSU is a land grant university, a designation established by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Land grant universities receive the benefits of federally-controlled lands given to the state to develop or sell to support the institutions, which have a special focus on the education of agriculture, science and engineering.
Most of OSU’s impact happens in Linn and Benton counties, the home of the university, while $980 million goes into the other 34 counties. OSU’s direct expenditures of $954,000 in Clatsop County, said Vice President for University Relations and Marketing Steven J. Clark, create a $2 million economic impact, based on direct, indirect and induced benefits.
Ray, who’s been president of the university since 2003, said the most important impact of OSU is the highly educated students it graduates to serve the state.
“They are exceptionally well-prepared to play an immediate and meaningful role in our workforce,” he said. “Our graduates are going to help improve the 21st century economy, our environment and Oregon communities in areas ranging from technology to natural resources to human health.”
He also talked about the Campaign for OSU, a school fundraising effort that has surpassed $823 million on its way to a $1 billion goal by 2014.
Expanding academic availability outside Corvallis
Ray met with Clatsop Community College President Larry Galizio earlier in the day to discuss a “reverse transfer” process, in which students who attend CCC without earning a degree can gain their associate’s degree through continued studies at OSU. He said that partnership will serve as a model throughout the state as it approaches its 40-40-20 goal, in which 40 percent of adults will have a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent will have an associate’s degree and 20 percent will have a high school diploma, all by 2025.
“As we move forward with planning and any next steps, we will always do so with a commitment to strengthen our collaboration with the local school districts and community college to ensure that the education continuum is developed as seamlessly as possible,” Ray said.
He ended his presentation by touching on the five main goals of OSU as it moves forward: strengthening university-industry partnerships to create jobs, addressing health and wellness issues through its new College of Public Health and Human Sciences, refining and strengthening outreach through OSU Extension Service, strengthening its impact in Portland and using its research to help policy makers in important decisions.
Questions for Ray
Local resident Yvonne Edwards wondered whether OSU was too focused on economic development – with the help of major corporate food sponsors – while ignoring the need to focus on real health issues such as more sustainable, organic food production
“It feels like a very conservative, mainstream view,” she said. “My concern is that it’s just another thing supporting the common paradigm.”
Ray said the college needs to focus on economic development opportunities in the current recession, but that the college supports noncorporate ventures such as Home Dialysis Plus, which focuses on improving the hemodialysis process.
He also mentioned OSU graduates who run Bob’s Red Mill and make many gluten-free items, and the university’s efforts in teaching students about organic farming.
“We’re doing a lot to - in effect - create the workforce for the future,” he said.
Sara Meyer asked about the current status of the OSU Extension program, which puts the university’s expertise into counties to work with business people, growers, foresters, youths and community leaders to improve communities.
Ray said OSU’s service programs such as Extension are under attack from slashed budgets. The programs recently faced a $20 million – or 20 percent – in funding from the Oregon Legislature, but some spirited advocacy pared the impact down to $10 million.
He added that 21 counties in Oregon have voluntarily decided to tax themselves to fund extension. Clatsop County is one of those, giving about $220,000 annually to help fund OSU’s services, according to Patrick Corcoran, an OSU expert in coastal natural hazards.
OSU Seafood Lab
People recognize OSU in Clatsop County most directly by the modernized, wood-shingled seafood laboratory on the corner of 20th Street and Marine Drive – its third successive lab in Astoria.
About 12 OSU faculty work at the seafood lab in Astoria. Christina Mireles-DeWitt, director of the lab, said four of those are Ph.D.’s.
Its operating budget, she said, is about $300,000 annually. Added to that is about $20,000 for each graduate student the lab hosts, paid for by research assistantships awarded to them by OSU.
The center’s operational budget, said Mireles-DeWitt, is continually shrinking, forcing the university to become a landlord for other local community organizations such as the Fisherman’s Cable Committee, the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Safe Harbor Animal Hospital in its old lab.
“Our entire building is about outreach to industries and the community,” said Mireles-DeWitt about how OSU’s tenants mirror its mission to public service. For more information on the seafood lab, visit osuseafood lab.oregonstate.edu/
OSU Extension office
For the last century, OSU extension has placed professionals in Oregon’s 36 counties, offering its expertise on such subjects as 4-H youth development, agriculture, forestry, family and community development, marine fisheries and coastal storms.
Clatsop County’s office in Astoria supports four OSU-funded faculty, along with about eight other local partners, including a 4-H organizer, food systems instructor, master gardening instructor and other assistants for the Extension program.
“We rarely do anything by ourselves,” said Sam Angima, regional administrator for the North Coast’s Extension offices. “We do everything in partnerships.”
Corcoran, who focuses on coastal hazards such as tsunamis, said that OSU possibly spends more than $400,000 annually on capital investments, faculty, communication and travel expenses.
He and Angima said that in response to weakening funding – and to do more with their resources – Extension officials are moving away from the county-focused approach and more toward a needs-based approach. OSU Extension agents will be more regional, but when members in Clatsop County continually voice concerns on certain issues, said Corcoran, OSU will know it needs to deploy its resources there.
Meanwhile, said Angima, community members can still get questions answered by OSU officials statewide by using the online question form “Ask an Expert” and get an answer back within two business days. They can also still visit the office at 2001 Marine Drive, Room 210 or call (503) 325-8573. For more information on Clatsop County Extension Services, visit extension.oregonstate .edu/clatsop/
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.