By Tim Leeds
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Foundation has awarded Montana State UniversityNorthern a $100,000 donation for the planned Applied Technology Center at the university.
"This level of support from the BNSF Foundation is a major achievement in our ongoing campaign to raise funds for the $5 million Applied Technology Center," Chancellor Alex Capdeville said in a press release. "We are proud of our longtime association with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company and we are excited about this newest chapter in that partnership."
The 2001 Montana Legislature appropriated $2 million to build the center, which has an estimated cost of more than $4 million. To receive the appropriation, the university must raise at least $2 million from other sources.
The center will upgrade the laboratories available at the College of Technical Sciences at Northern, adding services to some existing labs and replacing others. It will also provide a central location with classrooms and offices for different departments in the college, and office space for some services housed at the university.
MSU-N received a $1 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration for the technology center, and is working to receive a $750,000 congressional appropriation as well. The university is also asking other companies for funding.
"This in many respects is a major lead grant in that it signals others to get things going," said Greg Jergeson, a state senator who works as a grant writer for the MSU-Northern Foundation.
Jergeson said the university is confident that other businesses will be willing to work with Northern on building the center. He said Montana's congressional delegation has pledged support for the center.
The improved lab and classroom space is intended to better prepare students for work at jobs with companies like BNSF.
"For several decades, the Burlington Northern Foundation and more recently, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation have supported education at the collegiate level as well as providing funding through scholarship programs to help students with their college expenses," BNSF Foundation President Richard A. Russack said in a press release. "Education is one of the platforms of the BNSF Foundation along with supporting youth and other community activities."
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, who asked BNSF to support the technology center, said the new center is appropriate for the more technologically advanced times.
"As the economy and jobs become more focused on technology, having a hightech education becomes invaluable," he said.