A collaborative, hands-on center of innovation and education to foster the region’s technological advancement, global competitiveness.
Upon entering the IT3 Discovery Center next year, imagine light-filled space and the excited chatter of a variety of voices – young and not-so-young – emanating from open classroom doorways; a group of adults greeting each other as they make their way to a mezzanine conference room to discuss the use of artificial intelligence in their business operations; and through a glass door to another room, catch a glimpse of sophisticated computer equipment, surrounded by a diverse group of students listening intently to an instructor’s programming lesson.
All this and more embodies the inclusive atmosphere and myriad of activities that will take place at the IT3 Discovery Center, slated for a Phase 1 opening in spring of 2021. IT3 is a Port of Ridgefield initiative to provide the region’s businesses a place to learn, collaborate and leverage knowledge in the rapidly-expanding Industry 4.0 environment. In addition to assisting businesses with their technological advancement needs, IT3 will provide training to the region’s workforce, resulting in higher-level job skills and an associated higher wage scale. Of note is that the center will also be positioned to attract and serve businesses and students from far beyond Southwest Washington.
Working with a variety of partners and funding sources, the center is coming to life. The first phase of IT3 will be housed in 11,000 square feet of space in one of two buildings under construction at the port’s Wisdom Ridge property on S. 11th Street. A future, secondary phase will bring the facility to 60,000 square feet of space.
To date, IT3 has support from a variety of organizations including the City of Ridgefield, Ridgefield School District, CREDC, Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce, the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center and Identity Clark County, as well as from many local businesses and some large corporations, including Siemens.
Additionally, IT3 has federal legislative support from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, (WA), U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (WA), U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA), U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (OR) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR). Locally, Washington’s Sen. Ann Rivers and Rep. Larry Hoff were early supporters of IT3. The recent endorsement of the Washington State Department of Commerce came in the form of a $50,000 grant from the department’s Community Economic Revitalization Board. CERB is comprised of state legislators, state agency representatives, public-sector businesses, and recognized tribes as well as city, county and port officials from around the state. The funds issued by CERB will go toward port planning and business outreach for the development of IT3.
Port of Ridgefield CEO Brent Grening noted IT3 efforts also include active engagement with communities of color and culture.
“We’re reaching out to the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Chuuk community and Tribes to help ensure we have an inclusive and welcoming program for all,” Grening said.
Grening sees IT3 as a platform for businesses to advance their interests, and a place to encourage and support coordination between businesses – leveraging knowledge and innovation across industries.
“It’s essentially a coming together of economic ideas centered on Industry 4.0., “Grening said. For workers, he said, IT3’s industry certificate programs and collaboration with K-12 education partners will keep the region’s workforce relevant in a rapidly changing world.
“Not only will we provide current workers with new skills and better-paying job opportunities, IT3 will create a technology talent pipeline our regional businesses need.”
Kevin Witte, the port’s vice president innovation and development (see related article about Kevin Witte in the Winter 2021 PortWorks newsletter), will serve as the managing director for the center. Witte said that not only will IT3 be an outstanding technical innovation and learning center, starting from scratch presents the opportunity to build a center culture that embraces diversity from the onset.
“To create equitable opportunities in these emerging, family wage, technical careers,” said Witte, “we believe it’s critical to engage with, and get guidance from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the tech industry, such as women, people of African Descent, Latinx, Pacific Islanders and Tribes.”
Grening believes the IT3 Discovery Center, like broadband, is one more critical piece of 21st Century infrastructure needed in the region, making it a natural fit for the port, the Discovery Corridor, and Southwest Washington.
“Land and facility development are important for growing jobs and the local economy; the port will continue these efforts,” Grening said. “The IT3 center will position north county and the region for long-term economic success by helping businesses recover post-Covid-19 and to be resilient in the face of future economic disruptions.”
For more information about the IT3 Discovery Center, contact Kevin Witte by emailing KWitte@ portridgefield.org or call 360.635.3764