SOWI Gains Great Ground

By Wine Press Staff

One of the largest single gifts to any community college in the nation has been given to the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. The amount? $800,000.

Douglas County attorney Danny Lang has donated the generous gift to UCC because of the dynamic leadership he sees at the school and its willingness to tackle and make successful the economic development and instructional challenges and opportunities it finds.

In honor of his gift, the 24,000-square-foot, LEED-certified, state-of-the-art teaching, learning and event center, ready to accept students in the fall of 2011, will be named the "Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center."

The end of March marked the beginning of a capital campaign to build the $7-8-million center. To fund this project, the UCC Foundation, assisted by its volunteer board and campaign committee, is seeking to raise $4 million from foundations, corporations and individuals, such as Lang. The balance of the project will be funded through a Certificate of Participation (long-term mortgage) acquired by UCC.

"This wonderful gift is a catalyst for economic development in Southern Oregon," said UCC President Blaine Nisson.

Benefactor Lang said he has a desire to "improve economic conditions for people by upgrading their vocational skills."

Lang has previously helped establish a paralegal program at UCC and has given $10,000 toward scholarships each year in 2008 and 2009 and is currently vice chair of the program's advisory board.  He continues to follow the program, and paralegal students work in his office as interns.

"He cares about the youth of Douglas County, and he cares about the county in general," Nisson said, praising Lang's vision for seeing a need, making a pitch to the school and helping to establish the program at the time the paralegal program was established. "I think he's showing, once again, his concern for the county and the future of potential students at Umpqua Community College."

Lang is a gracious patron when he sees others in need.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005, Lang, an associate and some 50 volunteers collected household and personal items for residents there. Calling their program "Storm Aid," the pair collected some 400 to 500 boxes full of supplies. While some national relief agencies accept only money, Lang couldn't bear the thought of people in the storm area wearing the same dirty clothes for days on end.

"They didn't have toothbrushes; they didn't even have shavers, shampoo, a change of socks, shoes," Lang said at the time. The pair, the volunteers and residents of Douglas County filled two 50-foot semis with non-monetary donations such as toiletries, clothing, towels, teddy bears, canned food, all organized and perfectly sorted.  They sent 700 pairs of shoes, for example.  The trucks, the drivers' time and even the fuel for the long trip were donated.

To explain why he made this gift to UCC's Southern Oregon Wine Institute, Lang said he became struck by the abject poverty he's seen in places like the South Side of Chicago and the Deep South, which he witnessed during a teenage trip in the mid-1950s when he was in eighth grade.

"It made a profound impression on me," he told the College recently, "to observe that type of human condition."

The answer to economic improvement, he believes, always comes back to education; and community colleges traditionally have students trying to pull themselves up.

Lang's compassion and generosity are augmented by a hard-nosed attention to the bottom line and the management of his beneficence.

"I feel comfortable providing contributions to UCC because the programs are well-managed there," Lang said recently. "I'm 100 percent confident that all of the ingredients are at the College."

He also noted, "I liked that UCC was open to new programs [it has established 14 in the past five years]. That was a major factor in my decision to contribute this way.  I like the quality of the instructors and the administrators at UCC as well as the people at the UCC Foundation. I like that Nisson has been opening new programs."

Lang notes that Douglas County needs to broaden its economic base. Nisson has always spoken of the SOWI program as one of economic development, as well as education.  That's why the recent announcement of ETS Laboratories locating at SOWI was so important: It's a business that knows how to make money in the wine industry.

Lang has done his due diligence and knows that Oregon is presently the No. 3 grape-producing state in the country. Lang points out that the wine industry is a vertically integrated one and a cluster of often-small entrepreneurs wanting to grow larger. Making wine begins with growing grapes, harvesting them, making the wine, bottling and selling it and transporting it to market with employment all along the way; and a cluster of businesses grow around it. He notes that in Southern Oregon, the wine industry has the climate, the soils and the availability of land in which to grow.

In a recent study of SOWI's seven-county region, researchers found that "Southern Oregon has the potential to realize an eight-year growth factor of 5,000 additional wine-cluster-related jobs and $115 million in added income in the labor market."

In the past seven years, the number of vineyards in the seven-county region has grown by 50 percent, and the number of wineries has more than doubled. Major wineries from Northern California and the Willamette Valley have made recent purchases of large plots of the region's affordable lands for future grape-growing operations.

Lang has reviewed the plans, features and layout of the new building and has told the College he is struck by the possible tie-in with UCC's existing culinary arts program and appreciates that it is being designed to become an event center, as well.

"A community events center was a big reason for my support," he said.

The announcement of Lang's gift follows by just two weeks the commitment by ETS Laboratories, a noted wine-testing laboratory based in St. Helena, Calif., to locate a facility on the UCC campus soon and move into space designed for it in the new center once it is built.

In a recent letter to Nisson, ETS Founder/President Gordon Burns wrote, "ETS Laboratories is very excited by the opportunity to partner with Umpqua Community College and to participate in the growth and success of the Southern Oregon wine industry."

Established in 1978 by Gordon and Marjorie Burns, ETS is the leading independent laboratory serving the global wine industry today. ETS is unique in its ability to offer wineries a combination of routine analytical services and proprietary, accredited analytical methods.

ETS is known for getting in on the ground floor and helping the industry surrounding its lab to grow. A nearby laboratory will be especially significant for the smaller wineries in the area.

"Where they set up shop is a plus for that region," said Scott Henry III, owner of Henry Estate Winery in Umpqua. "They're going to make money. It's a great plus for our industry in general."

"Having a nationally-recognized wine laboratory in Southern Oregon will only help to improve the quality of our region's wines," Nisson said. "ETS will be a direct benefit to SOWI and our plans to serve the industry. Obviously ETS understands the great growth potential of the wine industry in Southern Oregon.

SOWI draws students to its viticulture and enology programs from Lane, Douglas, Jackson Josephine, Klamath, Coos and Curry counties.  ETS' location in Roseburg will make its testing services more accessible to wineries in those counties, too. Currently, in addition to its California headquarters, it has another testing facility in McMinnville, and one in Walla Walla, Wash.

"ETS is as good as it gets," said John Quinones, winemaker at RoxyAnn Winery & Vineyards in Medford. "Gordon Burns is cutting edge."

The new lab will strengthen the SOWI academic program, too.

"ETS Laboratories especially wants to support the Community College program by assisting, as called upon, with community outreach and education, development of practical educational programs, and bridging the gap between real world wine technology practices and academic theory," Burns said in his letter to the College.

The lab's new location will provide a ready service to the Southern Oregon wine industry.

"We aspire to create a working model that supports the local industry with the same internationally accepted quality standards we maintain in all our working laboratories," Burns wrote in his letter.

"This complements what we said was our intention with SOWI from the start," Nisson said, "provide hands-on instruction that meets the highest academic standards with a service to the industry and community that promotes economic development."

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