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With help of PCC and partners, Genentech finds Oregon a perfect match

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Thanks to the efforts of a local consortium, Genentech, Inc. is coming to Oregon. The San Francisco-based company plans to open a production plant in Hillsboro that will employ about 300 workers.

Genentech develops, manufacture, and commercializes biotherapeutics for various medical needs. Getting the company to Oregon was the hard work of a local consortium involving the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD), Worksystems Inc., Oregon Employment Department, Mt. Hood and Portland community colleges. The team of educators, economists, workforce experts and industry executives presented Genentech leaders with a compelling portrait of the regions workforce and business climates.

“It was very much a team effort,” said Paul Wild, director of PCC’s Customized Workforce Training program. “If we’re going to get them here, we really needed to be proactive in providing workforce development. We asked ourselves what we could do and how we could do it. Through many meetings we all came up with a plan.

“They mentioned how interested and responsive our team has been,” he added. “In many ways this is a good illustration of what PCC District President Preston Pulliams has talked about in terms of the role that the community college plays in economic development. We are the source of training for a qualified workforce.”

On PCC’s end, Wild and his workforce development team researched extensively what Genentech needed. This included traveling to California to research the company’s partnerships with local community colleges. This included going to San Diego for a bioscience conference to learn the best practices of the industry in order to provide the right training services.

“Genentech appreciated our proposed proactive approach to work with them,” Wild said. “Essentially, part of the package of service is that we said we’d actually go down to existing plants with positions similar to the plant here and conduct job profiles. Before they even showed up we would have the curricula in place.”

Genentech employs about 9,500 workers and is one of the first established biotechnology companies in the country. The new biotherapeutic fill/finishing manufacturing facility in Hillsboro will be built on 100 acres. The consortium cultivated the commitment of $100,000 to fund training needs. Genentech also received a $1.25 million commitment from the state to assist in workforce issues.

Each partner played a key role. The Oregon Employment Department presented their state-of-the-art online job matching system (iMatchSkills) and their labor economist provided details of the area’s work force. Worksystems, Inc., the region’s workforce development agency, coordinated the $100,000 in training funds to help educate the workforce. PCC and Mt. Hood’s biosciences programs described their offerings, capacity to train workers and offered customized training programs based on Genentech’s specific needs. The OECDD performed recruitment and retention services.

Kendra Cawley, PCC biology instructor and director of PCC’s biotechnology program, said it was easy working with Genentech because the company already was familiar with community colleges.

“They clearly understood the role community colleges play in developing the workforce,” Cawley said. “We know very well how strong of a history they have in collaborating with community colleges. Every place they have a facility they also have a partnership with a community college there. And the community colleges acknowledge they are a very good partner.”

Its part of what this consortium does and what community colleges like PCC can achieve to help spur economic development in its community.

“A college institution as large as PCC can be incredible in the workforce development realm,” Wild said. “If we are labor market responsive, and find what our business clusters or companies need, we can devise education and training that will have a very large, positive impact on local economy. It is the beauty of what a community college can do here.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »