Help Build "The Center"

The Center  

The Bettie Steiger Community Enrichment Center and Business Incubator
A service of Whitman County Rural Library District
104 S. Main Street Colfax, WA 99111
4000 sq. ft, built approx 1937
Contact: Kristie Kirkpatrick,, 509-397-4366


What is the Center and when will it be complete?
The Center will be the educational, social, cultural and business hub for Whitman County featuring classes for all ages, gallery space, business incubation, historic information, tourist activities, or other potential uses. While no date has been set for completion, officials are currently working diligently to secure funding.

Who is funding The Center?
The Center was purchased and renovations completed through volunteers, grants and donations. Please consider giving your time or a tax-exempt donation today!

What will it cost?
Total project cost for The Center is estimated at $504,450. Of that, $210,000 has been secured with the building having been purchased for $80,000, local economic development grants investing $40,000, additional commitments from the Library Friends/Foundation, Grandmothers Club, Athenaeum Club, Empire Disposal, Avista Foundation and most recently an Opportunity Grant from Inland Northwest Community Foundation along with a $15,000 donation from Bettie’s husband Don.

Currently, a $25,000 matching grant is waiting to be accessed as soon as $5,000 in matching funds can be raised. Inland Northwest Community Foundation just granted $2000 in opportunity funds and a quilt raffle has raised another $250. Please consider a donation to help us meet our match.

Who owns and manages the center?
Whitman County Rural Library District owns the building, with Whitman County Library Friends/Foundation and other partners funding many of the improvements, activities and programs taking place within the facility. Kristie Kirkpatrick, WCL’s director currently manages the facility with an eventual goal to hire a Center coordinator.

Who else is involved?

Tom Maul Architecture and Design, an accomplished firm from Seattle has committed to development and design of The Center.

Volunteers to date include Tom Maul, architect, Chris Sapp Masonry, Real Life Ministry volunteers, Sullivan Construction and Whitman County Inmate volunteers.

The Colfax Downtown Association lists completion of The Center as one of its key objectives seeing it as a key step in the revitalization of Colfax’s historic downtown.

The City of Colfax fully supports this project, seeing business growth and incubation as vital to the town’s future.

Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association and The Port of Whitman have both contributed to the Center through guidance & local economic development activities. Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative completed a community needs assessment, completed sample design models using those results and is interested in partnering to see the Center become a thriving addition to the Colfax Community. Colfax Chamber of Commerce is an advocate and partner in this project as they look forward the The Center’s participation and support in a variety of community activities and Events.

The Colfax Arts Council has contractually partnered to offer staffing and marketing skills in exchange for use of the facility.

Community Colleges of Spokane hosts Community Enrichment classes at the Colfax Library and fully support completion of the Center in order to expand their low-cost classes.

Community partners have expressed an interest in teaching classes or selling their local products through The Center. Many residents have donated to The Center or have written letters of support for the project.

Planning to date:
WSU’s Rural Communities Design Initiative held open community assessment workshops to identify the most pressing needs in Colfax. As related to The Center, they identified 4 key areas to pursue. These were Business Incubation, Art Center, Fabrication Laboratory and Community Hub.

CKA Architect Larry Kom completed a feasibility study for the Center, developing an estimated cost for renovation and reviewing the zoning regulations.

Whitman County Library adopted new meeting room policies to accommodate for-profit uses. This model is growing in popularity, demonstrating the funding model will work for The Center.

Work on the facility to date:
The basement floor has been sealed with cement to prevent mold, moisture and smells. Brickwork and other roof leakage resolved. Spray foam insulation has been applied to the ceiling. A direct entry from the library to The Center with fire protection features is nearly complete. The front façade is progressing nicely with a new door and windows recently installed. Bids are currently being taken for front siding to be installed asap.

What types of business incubation could occur at The Center?
The Center will accept a variety of business incubation options in the hope that entrepreneurs using the facility will develop a steady stream of business and reliable clientele before venturing into their own locations throughout the region.

Of the 4000 sq. feet available in the Center, up to 400 square feet could be dedicated to a specific business usage. Fiber Internet, changes in the electrical services, sound proofing and other modifications to the facility could be made in order to accommodate a small manufacturing business or other types needing incubation.

Currently, Yoga, Dance, Exercise and Art instructors are interested in renting the Center. These uses are quite feasible considering the size limitations of the Center. Gallery space and sales space is also being considered for budding local businesses to sell their artwork or other small sized items.

The Center may also house a fully equipped professional office available for use by appointment. The office would provide users with a desk, phone, fax machine, computer, high speed Internet, scanner, small conference table and other things needed for small business meetings and operations. With the limited broadband access throughout Whitman County, this Office will give prospective businesses the professional tools they need for meetings and correspondence.

The Center is also exploring the Maker Movement, along with grant opportunities and local support for sound and audio production, a 3D printing and other small fabrication equipment and uses, all valuable to potential businesses or workers.

How will The Center improve tourism?
The Center’s gift shop and gallery will attract shoppers and travelers and also hold special events like exhibits and artist receptions. In addition, the Center will seek out and provide information from our region and our small towns to assist tourists. The Library helped develop a historic walking tour of Colfax and will assist in developing a Travel Loop brochure through Whitman County. Both integrate the library’s rural heritage collection with historic sites. The Center will be a hub for county business and travel info!!

How will The Center enrich the lives of community members?
The Center will be the hub of activity for Colfax spurring growth and development within the community. It will serve residents seeking educational, cultural or social engagement. The Center will inspire entrepreneurs and be the place for business development and startups. Travelers, artists, creators will gather in The Center.

There will be free opportunities and activities that cost a fee. Free classes will range from cultural and DIY programs to those that will help our area meet the challenges of the 21st century. Events will center upon innovation, small business, the arts, education, regional and community celebrations.

About Whitman County Rural Library District
Whitman County Rural Library District (WCL) serves a population of 14,997 over a large regional area (2150 square miles) with branches in 14 towns whose populations range from 80-2900 people. The main branch is in Colfax, which also serves as the county seat and hub for the outlying communities and rural areas.

WCL originally formed by a vote of the people in 1946 and continues to grow. Over the past 20 years, the library district annexed seven towns into the district by 75% or more “yes” votes. Community support is strong, with residents continually voting to keep tax rates as high as legally possible.

Unfortunately, Washington taxing rate laws favor larger library districts and urban city libraries. Inequities can be very significant for rural districts like WCL where we collect only $800,000 in taxes to operate 14 branches and support a large geographic area. For this reason, WCL relies upon community donations and grants in order to thrive.

WCL’s mission is to be the community’s #1 resource for information, recreation and discover. WCL is committed to serving all residents in the places where they live, work and go to school whether it be through our system of 14 branch libraries, the website or outreach services. To accomplish this mission, WCL strives to provide top quality information while meeting the most pressing needs of our communities.

As a result, WCL provides popular innovative programs like a IT Microsoft Training Academy, public computers, wireless Internet hotspots, business partnerships and support, and educational classes while still maintaining traditional services like outreach delivery to schools and seniors, preschool story hours and materials collections.

WCL is proud of its award winning services that include a Sustainability Award from Webjunction as “The Little Library That Could” and featured programs in ALA’s Real Success Stories. Bill Gates visited WCL in 2002 citing the library’s innovative approach to service and technology. In 2004, Washington State Library called WCL the best rural library in the State nominating them as one of the top 100 libraries in the USA. WCL’s programs and staff have won numerous awards and have been featured in local, state and national workshops, broadcasts and publications.

August 2015.

How can I help?

Email Kristie Kirkpatrick  today!