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North Bay Business Journal

Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 5:20 pm

SSU Wine Business Institute to get own building

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    ROHNERT PARK — The Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University is set to get a 14,580-square-foot new home on campus, thanks to a $1 million gift from a local wine industry figure.

    Sonoma State UniversityThe personal gift from Gary Heck of Heck Estates, which produces the Korbel sparkling wine and other wines, provided seed money for the renovation of the former University Commons building to house the institute next year, the institution announced Tuesday. The building was vacated with the opening of the 130,000-square-foot student center in November.

    “The wine industry needs leaders with solid business skills and a deep knowledge of the industry if we are all to be successful,” said Mr. Heck in a statement. “The Wine Business Institute has delivered on this for more than 15 years, and this building is the next step. It will provide a visible home that will be a place of learning and gathering for everyone: students, faculty, industry professionals, and not just from our own area but from around the world.”

    “Gary Heck and Korbel have been supportive of the University for a very long time,” said Ruben Armiñana, university president. “I am pleased that Gary is joining with us to help create this new home for the Wine Business Institute. The plans and goals of the Institute serve not only Sonoma State’s educational mission but that of the California State University.”

    The institute’s new home, still in design by TLCD Architecture of Santa Rosa, is set to have three classrooms, a common area for students to collaborate on projects and business ventures and offices for faculty and industry professionals who teach courses. The office area will be named the Korbel Industry Center.

    “Our alumni are already working throughout the wine industry and increasingly occupying positions of leadership in an industry that has more than a $125 billion economic impact on the U.S. economy,” said William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics, which oversees the Wine Business Institute. “To educate them, at all stages of their career, and to have a place where people can gather to learn from each other, to share best practices in a field that is rooted in agriculture and a deep sense of place is an honor.”

    The renovation is expected to cost $4 million to $5 million, so the institute is seeking up to $4 million more in backing, according to university spokeswoman Annemarie Brown. Construction bidding is set to open in late summer or early fall.

    Enrollment at Wine Business Institute has been rising in three areas, according to Ms. Brown.

    First, participation in professional seminars has more than tripled in recent years.

    “Our finance and accounting seminar series hit a real need in the industry, as well as our online wine business management certificate that has reached people in a dozen countries,” she said.

    Second, demand for spots in the graduate program has doubled. The institute offers the executive MBA program in St. Helena and in the evening at the main campus.

    Third, undergraduate enrollment has grown from just a few students its first year in 1998 to an average of 100 students with a concentration in wine business.

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