The worlds of education, business and government were all represented on the dais at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Missoula College building on East Broadway.

Joining University of Montana President Royce Engstrom on the cold, windswept stage were Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, Missoula College Dean Barry Good, Mayor John Engen, along with Asa Hohman and Sarah Smith from ASUM.

President Engstrom began by stating the obvious, that he was only allotted two sunny days for important events, and he said, "I used those for commencement and the Paul McCartney concert."

Governor Steve Bullock said that education is the great equalizer in American society.

"It doesn't matter from where we come, who are parents are, if given the opportunity for a quality education, then the opportunities for anyone are unlimited," Bullock said. "Today, we not only move that first piece of dirt, but we also take that first step in opening doors to educational opportunity and success for thousands more Montanans."

photo by Peter Christian

Montana Governor Steve Bullock

Mayor John Engen had the crowd laughing, referring to last Sunday's 'Bare as You Dare' bicycle ride, hoping that some other emergency might arise to take the heat off his office.

"Last week, I sorely longed for some news or controversy about a golf course, and I was hoping that Royce would call and say 'You know, we're kind of regrouping on this thing', Engen laughed. "I wonder if we could just have a naked bike ride on the golf course. Funny, how you think of this stuff later,"

Engen praised the decision to place the new facility on East Broadway.

"We're grateful and excited that the University of Montana has made a move across the river with Missoula College, and is further integrating itself in the inextricable relationship that the university and the city share."

Missoula Mayor John Engen

photo by Peter Christian

After the prepared comments, the guests on the dais gathered for a photo opportunity with shovels and hard hats, officially breaking ground for the new college, which will be built with $29 million set aside by the Montana Legislature and the State Board of Regents. The building should be complete within 18 months to two years.