The Next Door

The GTA’s membership includes several Community Partner Members, whose work interacts with ours to create a better Gorge. One of those is The Next Door, the Gorge’s impressive and effective social service organization that strengthens children and families and improves communities in seven counties in the Mid-Columbia region on both sides of the river.
In total, The Next Door offers 27 programs that serve more than 3500 people each year, ranging from newborns through adulthood. They have 77 employees with offices in Hood River and The Dalles and in community partnerships throughout the Gorge. Their programs are focused on addressing social determinants of health, removing barriers and taking preventative measures with youth to ensure cycles of poverty and abuse are broken. They also work closely with the Latino community, with one of the most successful programs focused on promoting prosperity by helping Latino entrepreneurs develop successful businesses. 
The Next Door has several reasons to reach out to the tech community. The first is to share their new service providing translation and interpretation services, as well as coaching and training around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This program was created to share the incredible staff expertise with the community while helping to underwrite the social services they offer. They’ve provided diversity and plain language trainings in school and healthcare settings and are also ready to serve the business community.
The second reason to reach out is to connect with their youth programs. Mentorship opportunities can be just a one-hour lunch presentation to their Klahre House Alternative School or a regular commitment as a Big Brother/Sister or in the Mentor for Success program, which creates a positive impact on an at-risk teen’s commitment to staying in school and on the path to a successful future. 
The Next Door is a GTA member to work together with the GTA in identifying where they can support the development of the workforce as well as helping the tech companies know about their consulting services and ways the companies can engage with our kids and community to help shape tomorrow’s leaders. 
Learn more about their consulting services here  or their youth mentorship programs here or by contacting April Abernethy, Director of Development, at or 541-436-0307.
To find out more or get involved with The Next Door:

  • Attend the upcoming Stories of Hope Breakfast Events (use this link for more information)
    • Sept 22nd, 8 AM at Cousins Restaurant in The Dalles
    • October 27th, 8 AM at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River
  • Come speak on Motivational Mondays at the Klahre House
  • Reach out about mentoring youth (ages 6-20)
  • Follow us on Facebook
  • Donate now with this link

About Janet Hamada, Executive Director, The Next Door 

Janet grew up visiting her grandparents and uncle in the Gorge over the summers and was happy to move here full time in 2004 to raise her family. She became Executive Director of The Next Door in September 2007. Prior to that time, she had served as Program Manager of Nuestra Comunidad Sana, a program of The Next Door, for three years. Janet has a strong commitment to the Gorge, as evidenced in the work she does and the number of Boards she serves on, including the Hood River Rotary Foundation, Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, the Building Bridges: Columbia Gorge Education and Workforce Collaborative, and as a community advisory council member for Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. She is also president of the board of directors of the Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs.

Meet Suzanne Burd, GTA Board Secretary

Suzanne Burd has been a dedicated GTA Board member for years through her position with Columbia Gorge Community College. We were happy to see her featured in the most recent “Women in Business” publication in the Gorge. Click here to see the full article, “A Love for Learning,” on page 6 of the publication.
“For the past two decades, Suzanne Burd has worked at the Columbia Gorge Community College as the community education coordinator and the renewable energy technology program coordinator. “I wear several hats,” Burd explained. “I coordinate all the community education classes. I write grants, and I represent the college on state and local work force initiatives. I work in professional development for employees and employers, and help provide comprehensive course development and delivery. There are so many cool programs that are helping people.”

GTA Member News: CGCC Transforms Renewable Energy Tech Program to Electro-Mechanical Tech to Better Serve Gorge Industry

Columbia Gorge Community College recently announced the transformation of their Renewable Energy Technology program to Electro-Mechanical Technology to address the changing industry needs in the Gorge. “The local renewables industry is evolving to include advanced manufacturing, unmanned aerial systems, and instrumentation and process control. In response, CGCC is revamping its Renewable Energy Technology degree to meet those changes. The name of the program is changing, too, from Renewable Energy Technology, or RET, to Electro-Mechanical Technology, or EM-Tech (pronounced M-tech for short). Instructor James Pytel says the shift is “not so much of a change in focus but rather a redesign to fit the regional needs and remain flexible. Our desired outcome is to offer foundational technical skills with an array of specialized options,” Pytel explained.” Read the full article on CGCC’s website here.

Robotics Sign Ups Begin as School Starts, Training Sept 9

The new school year brings a new crop of students itching to get their hands on a robot! One of the easiest ways to help your student find their way to a robot is to get involved with FIRST robotics. FIRST is a national program with a sports-like model where students meet as teams over several months to prepare for a competition. There are FIRST programs in the Gorge for students ages 6 to 18. 

Your first step? Contact your child’s school to ask if they have a team or check the list of past participating schools at Most teams form soon after school starts to prepare for competitions in the winter. If your student’s school does not have a team, call Jessica Metta with the Gorge Tech Alliance at 541-296-2266 to talk about resources to support forming a team. The GTA has free robots and laptops for loan and can point you towards training resources and mentors to support you in forming a team. 

One upcoming training is Sept 9, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at Hood River Extension for coaches of FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams for students ages 9 to 14. Teams begin meeting now to prepare for one of the Gorge Qualifying Tournaments held the first two weekends in December, sponsored by Insitu and Google. The free workshop covers an intro to FLL, coaching and mentoring techniques, basic robot programming and mechanical design techniques. Pre-registration is required. Find registration links and more information about robotics in the Gorge at, a service of the GTA. 

The GTA’s equipment for loan and support of robotics events is made possible by our regional tech businesses including Google, Insitu and others. 

Business Resources at Gorge Small Business Development Center

Did you know the Gorge has a Small Business Development Center that offers free one-on-one business counseling, workshops and other services? They work with businesses in every industry and at every stage of growth from start-ups to well-established companies, from one employee to 500. Housed at Columbia Gorge Community College, upcoming courses include a Quickbooks Learning Lab in August and the Small Business Management Program.
The Small Business Management Program is open to business owners and managers of businesses that have been operating for at least 1 year. This ten-month program (meets one day per month) provides 30 hours of classroom training and up to 20 hours of one on one business counseling and mentoring. It provides an opportunity for established business owners to improve their financial knowledge and management skills. Classes include business planning, understanding financial statements, breakeven and cashflow analysis, growth planning, marketing / website, employee management/strategic planning, and business transition. Learn more about the SBDC or search their online resources here

GTA Strategic Planning Continues

As we’ve reported before, the GTA is elbow-deep in an intensive Strategic Planning initiative for the organization. Many thanks to our many members and sponsors who took our online survey or participated in one-on-one interviews to inform our background research. The Board will be meeting on August 3 to use your feedback in a focused retreat. Stay tuned for details as a stronger, future-facing organization emerges with even better tools to serve the Gorge’s tech community!  

Seeking Individual Passionate for STEM Education

The GTA has been proud to be a part of the Gorge STEM Hub since its beginning a few years ago. The STEM Hub is a regional collaborative of schools, nonprofits, business and civic leaders with the shared goal of transforming science, tech, engineering and math education for students. 

The Gorge STEM Hub is seeking a unique individual to serve as the Coordinator to lead, focus, inspire and collaborate with the diverse partners in achieving the STEM Hub’s goals. Find more information here.

Partner Event: OR UAS Summit in Bend, Aug 10

SOAR Oregon is hosting Oregon’s first Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Summit and Expo on August 10 in Bend. This free event will offer insights from legislative leaders, panel discussions with industry experts and advice on business operations from Oregon Economic Development officers. Oregon UAS Test Ranges will be explaining the first steps to get your project flying and businesses will have the chance to exhibit. Whether you’re a Part 107 pilot or a UAS manufacturer, this is the event for you!
SOAR Oregon is hosting this event to make sure everyone has access to the resources they need to make their UAS business successful. Register or learn more here.