The chancellor of Havre’s university said Montana State University-Northern’s economic impact locally and statewide already is immense, and only is going to grow.
“I'm so proud of what Northern can do, has already done, in the quality of the students it’s provided, and what it’s going to do in the future, ” Chancellor James Limbaugh said at an economic summit in Havre. “For those of you who weren’t aware of this, hold on to your hats, because Northern is getting ready to explode statewide. ”
Limbaugh, who took over as Northern’s leader in January, gave a local perspective at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s summit in Havre.
He said Northern will continue its work in research and in educating students, and is working to expand in many areas, including in the oil production going on in eastern Montana and in North Dakota at the Bakken Formation.
Limbaugh said at the start of his presentation he just had gotten off the telephone with the state Office of Economic Development. That office is interested in working with Northern and two community colleges to provide education for people going to work in the Bakken.
“That’s an important engagement that the university is going to be able to provide because of our unique location, ” he said.
He said he spent a day at Sidney as part of a task force looking into how to supply the needs at the drilling sites.
“It is an interesting cultural experience to go into a place that is exploding in every corner, ” Limbaugh said, “to go into a place that is in dire need of nurses and teachers and social service workers — but they have no place to house them. ”
He said a specific kind of education is needed to help that area — the kind of education Northern provides.
“Northern is specifically positioned, because of our programs in welding and plumbing and steam heating and trades, as well as nursing and education, to begin to deliver the kinds of programs (they need), ” Limbaugh said.
He said other work, such as Northern’s research into biofuel production, also will continue to grow, citing a more-than $1 million grant awarded to continue the North-central Montana Renewable Industry Initiative.
“We'll be able to continue the kind of testing we do here to look at the feasibility of fuels made from renewable resources, and that's a significant thing that Northern does that no other institution in the state does, ” he said.
Limbaugh said any university is an economic driver, and Northern fulfills that role very well.
He said a recent study by the Montana University System shows Northern provides, directly or indirectly, 800 jobs in the local economy, providing $82 million in income and a two-to-one ratio for state tax revenues produced for every dollar in state revenue invested in Northern, as well as significantly increasing the state’s investment standing. For people who live by tax tables and tax rates, that is very important, Limbaugh said.
“To put it into lay terms, that’s good news for what Northern does out here, ” he said. “It’s good news in terms of the research that we're doing in biodiesel. It’s good news in terms of the programs we can provide. ”
Limbaugh said people may think that a university in a location like Havre just does its thing with the students it teaches and that is its entire impact. In fact, he said, the university is inextricably linked with the local and state economy, and with the future.
“I'm a baby boomer, ” he said. “We’re getting ready to hand over a world that has some issues, and I'm very proud of the fact that Northern, in the way it’s educating students, is creating the kind of leaders the state needs, which then contributes to the type of economic durability that we all want the state to have. ”