The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
When the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences got started in Yakima six years ago many of us hoped this new institution would boost our Valley's economic fortunes in wholly new ways. As the first new medical university on the west coast in nearly sixty years, we shared the university founders' optimism that this school would blossom.
It took some trial and tribulation but today our local medical university is thriving and expanding in exciting new directions. The university finished expanding Butler/Haney Hall last year so it could accomodate more students. Prior to that, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) supported its request to increase medical student enrollment by over 50 percent.
Along the way PNWU forged new partnerships with Heritage University and Washington State University (WSU) that bring new programs to its campus. Heritage will work with PNWU to offer Physician's Assistant and Masters of Medical Science degrees. Pacific Northwest University will partner with WSU to bring a Pharmacy Doctoral program to Yakima. These new degree programs will ramp up over the next couple years.
As a result of these new and expanded offerings PNWU expects its student population to triple over the next five years. By 2018 the University projects it will have 450 students on campus. To accomodate these degree seekers PNWU will need to add another 45 faculty and support personnel to it payrolls. The university expects to have 150 employees by 2018. These are high quality jobs that boost our economy. Support position pay $45,000 on average and faculty position are typically closer to $100,000 per year.
PNWU recently completed a new master plan to help support anticipated growth. The University will be adding more classrooms and facilities - plus it will continue to look at options for adding new degree programs at its campus. Economic impacts from PNWU are significant. The University currently generates over $20 million in annual economic activity for Yakima County and we know that these impacts grow when more students and faculty are added.
More importantly PNWU is writing a new economic chapter for our region. Some observers have suggested the University's start is as important as bringing irrigation to our Valley. I am not sure PNWU will make our desert community bloom like mountain water, but it certainly can keep advancing our economy and moving it in exciting new directions. We commend the visionaries who started PNWU and are continuing to move it forward today. PNWU's success today is a testament to the dreams and hard work of many.