This month, I wanted to highlight an investment Bozeman made in 1993 that now seems to have impacted Bozeman’s economic outlook for the better. We never know where our hard work might pay off down the line and how it might change Bozeman’s future.
I read a great article this month by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about the growth of Optics Technology in Bozeman. The optics industry works with lasers, high tech cameras and other similar technologies to create better products, medicines etc. In 1993, the first real investment into Optics Technology in Bozeman was made. Local companies, the State of Montana, MSU, and the National Science Foundation teamed up to raise 3 million in optics research in Bozeman. By 1995, MSU had its own Optics Technology Center.
Since then, MSU has had 15 spinoff companies come directly from their programs, whether through new technologies invented on campus or by students who trained at the University and began their own company. According to the Bozeman Chronicle, there are now 30 optics companies in Bozeman, employing some 500 people most of whom earn higher than Bozeman’s average wage. Without the investment made in 1993, it is hard to say whether any of the growth of Optics Technology would have been possible. It is much easier to say that the growth of these local companies have provided an economic boost to Bozeman.
But the best news continues to be that Bozeman has worked hard to reinvest back into the sciences and that similar breakthroughs might be possible in Bozeman’s future.
Both the state government and the National Science Foundation again have offered major grants to MSU for continued scientific development in the area.
The National Science Foundation awarded a 3 million dollar grant to expand the nanotechnology center at MSU. The grant will give MSU the ability to put all of their associated labs in one location. Currently MSU has 5 nanotechnology labs. The money will be distributed over 5 years will also provide funds to upgrade and buy new equipment.
On top of this, MSU received 4.6 million in grants from the State of Montana. In total, MSU scientists have won 8.9 million of the 12.9 million that has been offered this year, with only 2 million dollars left outstanding. MSU worked very hard to achieve the grants they received, putting in 150 of the 200 proposals reviewed by the state. The 4.6 million in grants will go to infectious disease research in both humans and ranch animals, mental health research, energy research and research to better recover metals from wastewater.
Continuing to win grants like these and continuing to pursue them with the veracity seen in 2015 will help keep Bozeman on the forefronts of technological advances. It seems pretty apparent that research like this can drive future economic prosperity. Economic prosperity will help drive more people to Bozeman. So although lasers and nanotechnology feel very far from real estate, they might be closer together than people might initially think.