The Greening of Montana
The World of E-Commerce
Business to Business
From Bench to Business
Rocky Mountain Global
The Greening of Montana
by Caroline Lupfer Kurtz
First we have to understand the potential for economic development in the state, says Tony Rudbach, director of technology transfer for The University of Montana. In his view, the states best hope for a prosperous economic future lies squarely with technology and information-based businesses. Such companies typcially pay high wages, are environmentally compatible and, having a well-educated and motivated workforce to hire from, are unlikely to export jobs elsewhere, he says.
Time, however, is of the essence.
If we dont take action to control our own destiny in Montana, we will have to take what comes to us, which may not be in our best interests, Rudbach says. If we dont say what we want now, we may not have a say at all.
A few years ago, Rudbach, UM Vice President for Research Lloyd Chesnut and others began working with the Missoula Area Economic Development Corp. on ways to improve the states economic outlook. They wanted to capitalize on the growing resources human, educational and financial along U.S. Highway 93.
Today UM and MAEDC are close to finalizing plans for a technology business incubator across the Clark Fork River from the University. Known as the Montana Technology Enterprise Center, or MonTEC, the facility will provide space and support for research and development companies, many spinning off from UM work. MonTEC has a six-person board three members each from campus and the community and already has received $1 million in federal start-up funds. Another $2.1 million is pending from the Economic Development Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Similar facilities are being planned in Ravalli, Flathead and Lake counties, each under local control. The four business incubators will form the heart of the Northern Rockies Research Park and Technology Corridor, or NorCor. The umbrella created by NorCor would provide technology development expertise and examples from MonTEC, a shared high-speed communication network and access to a Montana Venture Capital Fund that is being planned by NorCor for the state, among other things. Ultimately, Rudbach envisions these efforts in western Montana linking up with similar ones east of the Divide, from Great Falls to Helena and Bozeman.
All companies need money to get started, Rudbach says. People with the capital are less likely to come to a place where there is only one company to visit. Theyd rather go where they can see several at a shot.
Rudbach and others inside and outside the University are working hard to develop a network of venture capital companies in the state and region that can supply the life-giving financial investment for new businesses in Montana.
For more information about MonTEC or NorCor, contact Tony Rudbach, Office of Research Administration, (406) 243-2148.