The campaign for an expanded science building at Montana State University Billings got a major contribution this week.
The Montana Coal Board will contribute $500,000 toward the construction of the building, the university announced Friday.
The project, dubbed the Yellowstone Science and Allied Health Building, is being led by the Montana State University Billings Foundation. The organization has now raised $3.5 million of the $5 million goal needed to begin construction.
Foundation President Bill Kennedy said they are pleased about the Coal Board contribution and that momentum is moving toward groundbreaking.
“We have grants out and we’ve got other folks that are looking," he said. "We feel really strong. Hopefully in the real near future we’ll be announcing the full $5 million.”
The science building project has been on the Foundation's plate since 2013, when the Montana Legislature promised $10 million toward construction. The money requires a match of $5 million from MSUB.
The Foundation raised around $2 million in 2017 — the biggest fundraising year of the campaign.
The construction would add 50,000 square feet to MSUB's dated building that houses the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences. Space in the current building has increasingly become multi-use over the years, and as MSUB looks to bolster its science and health offerings, administrators want more space to do so.
In announcing the Coal Board contribution, MSUB said that 11 percent of its graduates work in the industry and that more than 15,000 grads work in Eastern Montana counties, whose economies are tied to coal.
“MSUB’s science and allied health programs aspire to meet the needs of these burgeoning industries," said interim MSUB Chancellor Ron Larsen in a release. "The Montana Coal Board’s generous contribution has taken us one step closer to providing a 21st-century learning and research environment for the region.”