It has been years in the making and described as one of the biggest economic, educational and cultural projects to come along in recent memory not just for Douglas County, but all of Southern Oregon.
Plans call for the proposed allied and mental health college slated for Roseburg to offer bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing, counseling, physical therapy and other fields. Yet the college — now officially called the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center — is far from a certainty. It carries a price tag upwards of $30 million and only about one-third of that has been secured.
The main players involved in the project, including representatives from George Fox University, CHI Mercy Medical Center, the Roseburg VA Medical Center and Umpqua Community College, say they are confident it will become a reality. This week the center reached a bit of a milestone with the creation of a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the project to fruition.
The Umpqua Valley Development Corp. will be comprised of many of the same people who have been behind the project from early on. Local business owner Richard Heard will be president of the UVDC Board of Directors and Kelly Morgan, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, will be vice president.
Other board members include Steve Loosley, Umpqua Community College Board of Directors; Linda Samek, provost at George Fox University; and Lisa Yop, Roseburg VA Health Care System.
Morgan has previously said that the need for healthcare education in Southern Oregon is acute, with the region facing “growing allied and mental health workforce shortages that pose serious healthcare access issues.”
In July, the Oregon Legislature approved $10 million for the Center — about half of what local officials asked for. Raising the remaining necessary funding now becomes a main task for the Umpqua Valley Development Corp.
That role and other administrative duties had been handled by the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership. Wayne Patterson, executive director of the Partnership, said this hand-off was planned and is an indication the Center is entering a new phase, including the development of a curriculum.
“We’re kind of done with all the heavy lifting to help with the project,” Patterson said. “We’re at a point where the work that’s needed now is not really our specialty. We’re a facilitator, that’s kind of what we did. So this is all very positive.”
Patterson said the formation of the nonprofit was also needed for fundraising reasons — the UVDC will be a 501©(3), which makes it easier to receive donations than the type of non-profit the Partnership is. He also described the proposed Center as “a really big deal” for the region for several reasons, including its potential to train and keep medical professionals here and the significant economic boost it will provide.
“You will have a university in town, with a few hundred students in the first phase,” Patterson said. “Where do they live? Where do they eat? Where do they buy their groceries? It starts to change the economic environment of the community.”
To help explain the role of the Umpqua Valley Development Corp. and what its work will be moving forward, The News-Review asked some questions of Richard Heard and Kelly Morgan. Those questions and answers follow.
Where is UVDC in the process of incorporation?
The UVDC adopted bylaws and articles of incorporation on Monday and is submitting the articles of incorporation to the Secretary of State’s office on Friday.
Who is on the board?
Richard Heard (President), local business owner; Kelly Morgan (Vice President), CEO of Mercy Medical Center; Steve Loosley (Secretary), Umpqua Community College Board of Directors; Linda Samek, provost at George Fox University; Lisa Yop, Roseburg VA Health Care System; Ryan Tribbett (Officer of the Board, ex-officio), Executive Vice President of Pac/West Communications; Dallas Heard (ex-officio), State Senator for District 1; and Gary Leif (ex-officio), State Representative for District 2. Other members may be added.
What is the mission of this nonprofit?
The principal purpose of UVDC is to support and sustain economic and community development.
What is its proposed center’s role?
The primary focus of UVDC is to build support and find funding for the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center in Roseburg.
Why is the UVDC needed?
The Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center is a high-priority project that will open the door to numerous opportunities for growth. While local partners were already working toward that goal, a 501c3 adds focus and efficiency by creating an entity that can receive donations and apply for grants. It also formalizes the work so it’s more open and transparent.
Where do things stand now in efforts to bring the center here?
During the 2019 legislative the state appropriated $10 million toward the project. This is the cornerstone investment the UVDC will build on in the coming months.
What’s next in the process?
The board intends to meet twice monthly to get its members up to speed on all issues surrounding the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center. This will include presentations from local community groups. The public and members of the media are welcome to attend.
Will the UVDC share its work with the public?
Umpqua Valley Development Corp. is a 501c3 and intends to make all meetings open to the public as if it were a public body. The board intends to publish meeting listings in the News-Review and on a UVDC website, once it’s created.
Any final thoughts you would like to share with readers?
The Umpqua Valley Development Corp. is forming to support and sustain economic and community development. The first goal of the non-profit is to advance efforts to build the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center in Roseburg. Several years ago, health care providers, community leaders, elected officials, and others took the first steps toward building the college. A broad coalition stands behind the effort, and $10 million in state funding has been appropriated to construct the college. UVDC will carry on efforts to raise funds and in-kind contributions for the college and help guide program development and construction.