Getting buy-in for funding requires hard work around advocacy and clear communication. Tillamook Bay Community College is an example of doing just that.
In May, the Oregon college saw voters turn out for passage of a $14.4 million bond measure that will help fund a new healthcare education building next to the current main campus building. The space will house healthcare labs for a fully developed nursing program, along with medical assisting, EMS training and a 360-seat community event center, according to college officials.
The new facility should be finished in three to four years. The event center will serve as a meeting space for community groups and organizations throughout the county. Another $1 million from a separate grant is tabbed for purchase and refurbishment of a 6,000-square-foot building that will house the college’s welding and manufacturing programs.
Tillamook finalized a facilities master plan in spring 2021, receiving $8 million in state money to pay a portion of the capital construction project. President Ross Tomlin knew that asking residents for $14 million would be a challenge — particularly in the face of ballooning inflation — but the college’s positive community standing gave him hope.
Further raising Tomlin’s spirts was an engagement process that persisted throughout the campaign. Consultations with stakeholders highlighted the desire for a healthcare talent pipeline to help fill the nursing gap impacting the entire industry.
“Tillamook is the only Oregon community college that does not have its own nursing program,” Tomlin says. “We didn’t have the capacity to offer that, but knew we could do it with the right space. That became the linchpin for the new building, which will include healthcare programs plus the signature program of nursing.”
A concerted effort
The new nursing curriculum is supported by local hospital systems in pursuit of fresh recruits. One champion is the CEO of Adventist Health Tillamook, who spoke to voters and fellow stakeholders about repairing ongoing nursing disparities. An executive director of Rinehart Clinic in Wheeler, Oregon, followed suit, sharing anecdotes about would-be nurses leaving the area just to attend school.
Tomlin and Tillamook bond committee members conferred with regional leaders throughout the campaign. Students did their part as well, putting up signs and sending out mailings to trumpet the importance of the campaign.
“Students were involved and very supportive,” Tomlin says. “It was critical help, because we’re doing this for current and future students. That was important to understand. Most of our current students won’t be here when the project is done, but they believe in the college and what we’re doing.”
Keep spreading the news
Having funding in tow does not mean Tomlin’s job is finished. Since the bond measure’s passage, the college leader has written updates around forthcoming construction and programming for a local newspaper. Tomlin plans to hit the road this fall, spreading news to the same groups that backed the bond just as Tillamook announces its new strategic plan.
The college, up 16% in enrollment this past academic year, wouldn’t be in this position without powerful community ties, notes Tomlin.
“You have to have good personal relationships where people feel comfortable with you and respect what you’re doing,” Tomlin says. “The community needs to have confidence that you’re using state funds and local tax dollars in a proper way.”