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News / Business / Clark County Business

New Clark College campus at Boschma Farms designed for advanced manufacturing, renewable energy programs

49,000-square-foot facility in Ridgefield will offer classes starting in fall of 2025

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 4, 2024, 6:07am
6 Photos
Clark College&rsquo;s new satellite campus in Ridgefield is centered around the &ldquo;high bay&rdquo; &mdash; a manufacturing floor where students can use and learn machinery like they would in a professional factory setting.
Clark College’s new satellite campus in Ridgefield is centered around the “high bay” — a manufacturing floor where students can use and learn machinery like they would in a professional factory setting. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — Just five months ago, Clark College’s new satellite campus at Boschma Farms in Ridgefield was little more than a skeleton of steel beams.

Today, the new 49,000-square-foot facility intended to support programs in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy has taken shape. Construction is expected to be finished by winter, with classes starting in fall 2025.

The school is anticipated to serve an estimated 1,200 students and sits in one of the fastest-growing areas in the state — a promising opportunity for Clark, which still has yet to return to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.

Inside, the facility is anchored around its manufacturing floor, known as the “high bay,” where students will learn skills in engineering and construction in a realistic work setting. Interior windows into the space from hallways, classrooms and study spaces are intended to foster interest in the high bay, said Mike Dickey, the senior project manager with contractor Mortenson.

“We designed the space to have viewpoints into the (high bay) from everywhere,” Dickey said. “We want kids to look in there and think, ‘What’s going on? I want to do some of that.’ (We’re) trying to drum up enrollment.”

While not yet populated by students and projects, 26-foot ceilings and skylights make the high bay feel spacious and comfortable. Many of the spaces for engineering and manufacturing at Clark’s existing campus in Vancouver feel tighter, with lower ceilings and smaller rooms.

“Compared to 10-foot ceilings in the existing campus’s welding space, this is bright and open,” Dickey said.

The bay opens into an outdoor work yard where students can practice working with larger machines — a setting that probably won’t look all too different than the construction of the building itself. Now wrapped in blue insulation material is the steel beam celebrated at November’s “topping out” ceremony — the final piece of the building’s core structure ceremonially signed by school leaders, construction workers and the community college’s mascot, Oswald the Penguin.

March and April are the peak months of the building’s construction, Dickey said. As many as 110 workers have been on site each day in recent weeks; the entire brick facade has been done since March 1.

To the south of the building is a newly built roundabout that will eventually bring buses and other traffic to the front entrance of the school. The entrance will feature a concrete plaza with picnic benches and additional outdoor seating, all with a partial view of Mount St. Helens to the northeast.

Dickey said it’s been a unique project for Mortenson — as the facility is intended to be built for people in career fields like his own.

“It’s exciting, our industry needs these programs,” he said. “We need people to know there are more options than just getting a four-year degree.”

Other new developments

Clark College received an estimated $53.2 million from the Legislature’s 2021-2023 capital projects budget to build the new campus, along with another $1.5 million in federal earmarks.

The school has received a handful of additional grants in the last year to help support new programs that will one day be held at Boschma Farms. Just last month, it received $1 million from the United States Department of Labor to help develop a new clean energy technical education program that teaches students how to manufacture and repair electric vehicles.

Last week, the school also received a $2.2 million Title III grant from the Department of Education to better collect data on its students and programs.

Clark College isn’t the only new big addition to Ridgefield’s Interstate 5 corridor. Just down the road is the future site of a Costco and In-N-Out Burger — two destinations sure to bring traffic to the area.