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City leaders view D.C. trip as a success

Four of Sunnyside's most notable names made their presence known in Washington D.C. last week.

Mayor Ed Prilucik, Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole, Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell and Sunnyside Economic Development Agency (SEDA) Executive Director Rado Harrington traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Congressman Doc Hastings and representatives from Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell's offices.

While all four men went with different purposes, all four were on the same page as far as getting their messages across.

"It went rather well," said Prilucik. "The city joined hands with the school district. We planted some seeds."

The mission of Prilucik and Stockwell was to find funding for infrastructure improvements to Monson feedlot, which the city has purchased. But Stockwell and the mayor were also there to support the idea of finding funding for the establishment of a vocational technology skills center in Sunnyside.

"Which is really a joint effort," said Stockwell. "This is something we are very serious about."

The local school district wants to build a skills center to serve students and adults, on 8.2 acres of property that was donated by the Port of Sunnyside, next to Can-Am.

Stockwell said the city has realized the importance of having a skills center in the community and the availability of a trained workforce. Stockwell said the skills center is critical for such businesses as Can-Am, to help develop the needed workforce.

While in D.C., Cole said he touched on the need to develop skills centers in rural areas.

"We need programs that give our students living wage jobs," said Cole.

The next step, said Cole, is to talk with the partnering school districts in the Lower Valley, including Granger, Mabton, Zillah, Toppenish, Grandview and Prosser, and work on developing a plan for the skills center that will meet the needs of all students. Cole added the district was given a number of different funding avenues to pursue. He said the district was also advised to put a plan together by early next year to present to federal officials for possible funding opportunities.

The city in particular was looking to plant the seed for future funding opportunities to expand infrastructure development out to the 150-plus acres at Monson feedlot, which the city is anticipated to officially own next year.

Stockwell said he felt the meeting with both Hastings and the representatives from the senators' staffs went well. He said neither group broke out the checkbook, but the city was able to put its project on the radar. Stockwell is hoping to get the city in line with some federal funding opportunities early next year.

"It we can get some federal assistance, (maybe) we can get the state's attention," said Stockwell.

Stockwell is anticipating that it will cost around $2 million to develop the Monson feedlot site with water and sewer services.

Stockwell said the city was given different funding sources to pursue for improvements to the feedlot area. He is hoping to have the land ready for any kind of possible business development in the next couple of years. But Stockwell isn't ruling out the possibility of speeding up that timeline should some business want to locate at the site.

Harrington, who organized the trip, said he was very pleased with the dialogue that took place, dealing both with the skills center and the feedlot.

"It was very positive," said Harrington.

Harrington said with 44 percent of Sunnyside residents making less than $25,000 per year and an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent in the community, a skills center is needed in the community.

A skills center in the community would also help in attracting new business to Sunnyside, said Harrington. Harrington said when developers come to town, he could take them to the skills center and use it as a major selling point, in terms of being able to train the employees needed for the new business.

"That would reap huge benefits," said Harrington.

Harrington said he plans to work on promoting the skills center and Monson feedlot issues in the coming months. In fact, within the next two to three months, Harrington says he will be before the City Council to submit a proposal for possible development of one of the pieces of land at Monson feedlot.

Cole was already in Washington D.C. prior to joining up with the rest of the Sunnyside group, talking to officials about naming Sunnyside as the new National Migrant Data System program site. Cole said having this national program in Sunnyside would create 26 new jobs in the community.

Cole said he felt the meeting in Washington D.C. went well. He said the united front by the Sunnyside representatives to promote their projects made an impression.

Cole said he feels all of the area's elected legislators will be a major help in helping develop the skills center and assisting the district in securing the national migrant student program. Cole said state officials, including Gov. Christine Gregoire and State Superintendent Terry Burgeson, have also been receptive to the idea of developing skills centers.

"We need to be ready," said Cole.

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