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New school may slow talent migration

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunRicky Hauff of RK Excavating performs underground utilities work on the site of the new Sierra College on Friday.
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In a ceremony last month, Truckee dignitaries turned spades of dirt at the groundbreaking for a new community college in Truckee.

Now that construction has begun, school officials are wondering what effect an expanded Sierra College will have on the surrounding community.

Slated to open its doors for the 2009 spring semester, the new Sierra College campus will sit atop McIver Hill overlooking the town and the Truckee River.



According to Dean of the College Rick Rantz, the new facility will be three times the size of the quarters the college leases in the Pioneer Commerce Center in Truckee.

The satellite campus includes eight small- to medium-sized classrooms that are shared with Forest Charter school.



Blueprints for the new campus call for 14 larger classrooms with additional space for expanded administration, faculty and counseling offices. The campus will include room for a student commons area and food service facility. The library will focus on electronic material, but also include a few important reference books, Rantz said.

Currently, students can earn an associates of arts or sciences degree from the Truckee campus, the school’s dean said. The new campus should provide opportunities for academic growth.

“We are in discussions with two institutions regarding a four-year degree program,” Rantz said in an earlier interview. “We would want to make it as cost-effective as possible.”

Will the college provide the impetus to turn Truckee into a city?

“No, but is will strengthen what is going on here, especially within the local business and industry,” Rantz said. “They will be offered a more highly qualified [labor] pool.” Rantz said industry in the Tahoe-Truckee area is experiencing a near-crisis situation trying to fill some skilled positions.

“In some industries, up to 25 percent of upper management will be leaving in the next three to five years,” he said.

The college dean indicated that recruiting from outside areas is always more difficult than having home-grown talent to draw from. Locals who step in for retiring baby-boomers would not have to pay for relocating expenses like rental deposits or buying a home.

“With the high cost of living [here], it make more sense to train people locally,” Rantz said.

The dean said the ski, public utility and golf industries will soon need a new pool of skilled employees.

The new campus will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 students per semester when it opens, and more students at buildout. Is it worth the investment by the Sierra College district?

The district is constructing the new campus with funds from the $35 million Measure H, which district voters approved in 2004.

Rantz said an independent study found for every dollar spent on a higher learning facility, the money was returned to the community “three fold.” Money spent in the community by college students, higher wages earned by new graduates and higher-paying jobs offered at a larger campus all contribute to the school’s impact on the local economy.

School officials hired an independent consultant to address how many new positions the college will need. Any growth of the school’s payroll will be reflected in the area’s growth Rantz said.


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