Columbia Credit Union gives WSUV $60,000

Gift will support research, development, collaboration with high-tech firms

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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When Washington State University Vancouver unveiled its new Engineering and Computer Science building Tuesday, Columbia Credit Union brought a $60,000 gift to the party.

Columbia Credit Union’s gift will support a radio frequency research laboratory, a computer science open computer lab and six mini-grants for faculty research. Both laboratories will bear Columbia Credit Union’s name through 2016.

The credit union has supported WSU Vancouver’s student scholarship program since the early 1990s. This is its first gift specifically for engineering.

“Our gift’s mini-grant support will foster research and development, and innovative collaborations between WSU Vancouver faculty and high-tech companies. We hope to inspire many other local organizations to make a contribution of their own,” Colleen Boccia, Columbia’s senior vice president of marketing and chief deposit officer, said in a news release.

Waiting five years for employment to slowly recover, as economists are predicting, is not an option, said Steve Kenny, president and CEO of Columbia Credit Union.

“By acting now, we are setting the stage for sustainable job creation — in advance of that five-year horizon,” Kenny said, after the gift was announced Tuesday.

Looking ahead

Columbia Credit Union has been involved in Clark County’s 20-year economic development plan, which emphasizes the role of higher education and research. It’s important to move forward in “areas of study that will attract, absorb and anchor (information technology) and software companies, including mobile applications, near-field communications, multimedia and the health care industry,” Kenny said.

Campus officials announced the gift to about 200 guests at the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event. The $60,000 gift is in commemoration of Columbia Credit Union’s 60th anniversary in 2012.

“About 90 percent of WSU Vancouver students come from a 50-mile radius. They are primarily place-bound learners,” Boccia said.

“As many as 15,000 WSU alumni live, work and volunteer their time in Southwest Washington, and Columbia Credit Union serves more than one in four of these families,” Boccia said.

WSU Vancouver’s Engineering and Computer Science building is home to the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as the electrical and mechanical engineering programs. The $43.5 million, four-story, 56,000-square-foot building will open for classes in spring 2012.