BEND, Ore. - Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., continued his tour of Central and Eastern Oregon Friday, making stops in Redmond, Sisters and at OSU-Cascades in Bend.
At OSU-Cascades, he met with university officials, local business leaders and community members to discuss the planned expansion into a four-year university.
OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson told Walden that Central Oregon is the only region of its population size without a four-year school.
Johnson and local leaders said the expansion is crucial for economic development in the region and giving more access to higher education for local students.
The university also wants to eventually recruit out-of-state and international students.
Business leaders said they are consistently asked by potential new hires if there is a four-year university in the region.
They say an expanded university will bring in businesses, pump more money into the local economy and provide more high-wage jobs.
As Walden watched presentations by department faculty and business leaders, he said he was "excited" about the future of Central Oregon and its higher education.
And Johnson said Walden's support is critical in finding and securing grants that would make the expansion possible.
"He was really sold on the idea of how the university, combined with our entrepreneurial community here in Central Oregon," she said. "Combine that with some capital to get things started, (and it) could really make a difference, in terms of economic development."