RICHLAND, Wash. - It was a giant leap forward Thursday morning for Washington's wine industry as state dignitaries and university leaders broke ground on the state's first Wine Science Center.
Washington State University has long been a wine school. Since the 1930's, wine-research has been done there and it's the only university in the Pacific Northwest to offer degrees in viticulture and wine business management. But now wine and science will meld, offering the best the business has to offer.
"Today we're celebrating a great marriage of two things we believe in the state of Washington. We believe in wine and we believe in science," said Governor Jay Inslee.
Close to 200 people celebrated the first step in making WSU's Wine Science Center a reality. Governor Jay Inslee among a true who's who of guests this morning.
"I think it's great to think we've been known as Boeing and Microsoft and now known as the Wine Center of the world economy. That's a pretty exciting vision," Gov. Inslee said.
Construction is set to begin immediately and not a moment too soon, according to Steve Wariner. He touted the Washington wine industry's 'explosive' growth.
"30 years ago we established our first American viticulture area, the Yakima Valley AVA. Today we have 13. That same year in 1983, we had about 40 wineries. Today we have just under 800 licensed wineries," said Steve Wariner with the Washington state Wine Commission.
He also spouted some numbers, pointing to the wine industry's $8.6 billion impact on the state's economy in 2011. That's nearly triple the $3 billion dollars the state saw just six years ago.
By 2020, thanks in part to the new Wine Science Center, that number is expected to reach nearly $26 billion.
"When you look around the state of Washington at all of the great things that are happening in building a working Washington, you can't look to a better place than right here. So let's go celebrate, go Cougs, go Washington wine industry," Gov. Inslee said.
The Port of Benton owns the land where the 39,000 square foot facility will stand. The vineyard manager will be the City of Richland. Governor Inslee says the Wine Science Center "symbolizes the power of partnerships."