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University of Montana President Royce Engstrom speaks at the start of a public forum in September 2013 on where to locate Missoula College.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Increasingly, communities look to universities to help spur business and economic development and the University of Montana is doing just that, President Royce Engstrom said during the 2014 State of Missoula Commerce Report on Tuesday.

Already, the University of Montana helps develop a workforce, Engstrom said.

“But lately we’ve been trying to be more deliberate about actually helping to drive that economy, not just supply the workforce, but helping to drive that economy,” he said.

Much of the university’s $379 million operating budget last year entered the Missoula economy, he said.

One university program that will help drive the economy is the Blackstone LaunchPad that, when it opens Feb. 13, will provide support for students and alumni hoping to turn their ideas into businesses.

Building a new Missoula College location on East Broadway also is driving the economy and it’s building a bridge between UM and downtown, Engstrom said.

Also, the Montana Technology Enterprise Center, or MonTEC, supports growing companies and helps them transfer ideas into the private sector, Engstrom said.

“A lot of that work is based on research done at the university,” he added.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

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