Prosser's Clore Wine Center lands federal grant

By the Herald Staff April 13, 2011 

PROSSER -- A federal agency has awarded a $2 million grant that will allow building of the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser to start in 2012.

The Federal Economic Development Administration awarded the grant to the co-applicants, the Clore Center and the Port of Benton, according to a federal news release.

The $4 million agritourism and education center is to be built on 24 acres overlooking the Yakima River, the Horse Heaven Hills and Rattlesnake Mountain.

The design process is to start immediately.

"This investment is a major step for economic development in Washington state," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., according to the release.

"Washington's wine industry, the second-largest in the United States, is home to more than 700 wineries and 350 wine grape growers, contributing $3 billion to the state's economy and supporting 19,000 Washington jobs," she added.

Amber Fries, director of communications for Desert Wind Winery, which is adjacent to the center's site, said the center "will be a terrific asset to Prosser, the Washington wine industry, and wine lovers, and we're thrilled to have it as our neighbor."

"We've all been watching the progress next door and are eagerly awaiting the completion of the center's outdoor event facility later this spring," she added. "A visit to the Clore Center will be a great educational opportunity."

The Clore Center site is adjacent to Interstate 82 at exit 82. It was awarded the grant partly because the nation's largest irrigated agricultural research center, which is operated by Washington State University, also is nearby.

The center is named for the late Dr. Walter J. Clore, who began research there in 1937 on small fruits and vegetables, including wine grapes. His work became the foundation for the Northwest wine industry.

Through a joint operating agreement, the Port of Benton will oversee construction and own the 15,000-square-foot building. It will offer indoor and outdoor venues, including a tasting room, demonstration kitchen, agriculture and viticulture exhibits, classrooms, conference rooms, office space, retail shop, instructional vineyards, interpretive and production gardens and a walkway along the Yakima River.

Fundraising is continuing to finance these assets and furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Within five years, the center's mission is to create 69 direct jobs in the wine industry and indirect jobs in wine and agriculture, according to the grant announcement.

A public-private partnership has collaborated to get the center built. It includes the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, Washington state Department of Commerce, the Port of Benton, Benton County, the City of Prosser, the Prosser Economic Development Association, the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund Committee, Washington State University and the Washington Wine Commission.

The center's 2,400-square-foot outdoor event facility, a satellite building to the main center, is to open in May. It will include indoor and outdoor assembly areas, a catering kitchen, office space, rest rooms and a storage area.

It was funded by the state Department of Commerce, HUD and private contributions.

The Legends of Washington Wine event and the annual Prosser Wine and Food Fair plan to relocate permanently to the grounds in August.

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