Amid preparations for the eclipse, a fairly significant event for the mid-valley occurred two weeks that might not have received the attention it deserved.
Linn-Benton Community College celebrated the grand opening of its new facility for health-care training. The college's new $16 million facility is located on the Samaritan Health Campus in Lebanon, just across the highway from Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital and adjacent to the COMP.
Now, at last, all of LBCC's medical programs are under one roof. The center will be home to LBCC programs for nursing and nursing assistants, diagnostic imaging, dental, medical assistants, coding and reimbursement specialists, polysomnographic technicians, phlebotomy, pharmacy technicians and occupational therapy assistants. There are obvious advantages to having all these programs in the same facility, and its location should help to encourage other partnerships.
Just as important, the new facility (its official name is the Healthcare Occupations Center) will give these programs the chance to grow — and the importance of that can't be understated for an economy that increasingly relies on the fast-growing health care sector.
For example, the new building means the college's medical assisting program can grow: It started with 13 students two years ago and jumps to 30 this fall.
The next challenge for the program will be finding more instructors, a problem for medical programs nationwide. But you can bet that a brand-new building will give a substantial edge to LBCC recruiters.
We've written before about the importance of our community colleges to making sure we have trained workers available to fill the mid-valley's employment needs, not just for today but also for tomorrow. It's a message that is slowly getting out.
Maggie Trasker, of Philomath, an LBCC nursing program alumna and one of the people who checked out the new facility last week, understands it: "This college makes all the difference to our community," she said. "LBCC looks at what's the need, what education do we need, what training do we need ... and they're nimble on their feet."
A couple of other points are worth making: Even though this facility is in Lebanon, it will serve the entire mid-valley area, so this is just as important to Benton County as it is to Linn County. And the facility was made possible by voters' approval in 2014 of an LBCC bond measure; $8 million of the money for the building came from the bond measure, which was matched by another $8 million from the state.
In fact, the only beef we have with the building is in its name and the unfortunate way it has crammed what should be two words, "health care," into one. In this case, however, we are prepared to look the other way and to offer thanks to everyone who helped bring this important and significant facility to the mid-valley.