Federal program funnels millions into county

Published on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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A Whatcom County organization has obtained several million in foreign investments to create new jobs and strenghten industries right here.

The Whatcom Opportunity Regional Center (WORC) unveiled its new $7.8 million senior living community, Correll Common, in Ferndale Monday, as part of its goal to stimulate growth  in Whatcom County industries and create jobs.

The Whatcom Opportunities Regional Center is designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to participate in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program that enables foreign investors to apply for green cards upon making an investment of $500,000 or more into an identified industry.

Diane Kamionka, a spokesperson for WORC, said board members chose to develop an active senior living community as senior care services was the area’s largest industry and because more than 30 percent of the county’s population is older than the age of 60.

In addition, the organization is partnering with the Northwest Economic Development Council’s Innovation Resource Center (IRC) to help connect start-up businesses with resources that would help them grow and thrive.

Because of Whatcom County’s unique economy, the role of the IRC goes beyond the role traditionally assigned to business development organizations, she said.

“Generally speaking, in a county or an economy of this size, we don’t have any one industry that merits the overhead cost dedicated to having any one accelerator group but we have multiple industries that are important to the county so what we’ve done is create the IRC which will coordinate those services,” Kamionka said.

Kamionka added the goal of the IRC is to create 1,131 new jobs in its first five years.

WORC chair John Wynstra said the organization has plans for two other retirement communities in Lynden during the next few years.

For more information, visit the IRC’s site at www.nwecon.com or WORC’s site at www.worc.biz.

Photo by Tara Nelson