When Montana State University officials unveiled the university's new logo recently, they took a fair amount of heat for contracting with a Phoenix, Ariz., firm for the $20,000-plus project.

Now we learn that a Colorado landscape architect was contracted to develop a plan for the 100-acre regional park being developed by Gallatin County.

The business of soliciting and awarding bids for work by publicly funded agencies, like the county and MSU, can be complicated, with a number of requirements that must be met.

Still, though, public officials have a fair amount of latitude in the way in which they solicit bids, and the process can definitely be tilted in favor of in-state firms. And maybe it should.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when the selection of local firms capable of doing the kinds of design work required for the logo and park maps was pretty limited. Times have changed, though, and there are a number of capable individuals and firms that do this kind of work locally.

And, to add to the irony, MSU offers both graphics and landscape architecture programs as part of its curriculum. In fact, a contest offered to MSU graphics and landscape architecture students might have produced some perfectly acceptable results - and for a lot less money.

MSU officials have defended the choice of contractors, saying that they make an effort to send work to MSU grads no matter where they live, and that requires a nationwide call for bids.

But in the case of the logo design, the work ended up in the hands of non-MSU alums.

The county and MSU depend on the goodwill of the state Legislature for much of their funding. Their pleas for additional money might be better received if it was known that the agencies made a significant effort to keep in state as much of the work they contract for as possible.

In fairness to the county and MSU, both agencies spend a great deal of their considerable annual budgets locally. But making it a top priority wouldn't hurt.