UPDATE: Montana Has New Economic Development Campaign

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The governor’s economic development office has begun a new television and Internet advertising campaign aimed at attracting businesses to Montana.

The ads, featuring Gov. Brian Schweitzer, say Montana has been one of only two state governments in the black during the national recession.

“How long will it be before your state’s red ink rubs off on your business?” Schweitzer asks in one ad that includes clips of national television interviews about Montana’s positive budget balance.

The ads — which are running on CNN, Fox News, CNBC and the Weather Channel — also note that Montana has been ranked No. 1 among the states for business startups by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The ads speak “directly to business travelers about the opportunities available here, like our business tax climate, our good schools and universities and, of course, our No. 1 resource, our people,” said Evan Barrett, chief business development officer under Schweitzer.

The campaign also includes links to an Innovate Montana website from ads posted in the online business pages of major newspapers in Denver, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Seattle. A Facebook page is also planned.

“It’s all part of an integrated vehicle to get the word out,” Barrett told Lee Newspapers of Montana. “When all the states are in trouble and they’re all looking at tax hikes and draconian cuts in things like education, we’re in an enviable position right now.”

Sen. Jeff Essman, R-Billings, who has encouraged the state to recruit businesses, called Schweitzer a “shameless self promoter” for appearing in the ads.

Essman said it was “good Republican tax policies” adopted from 2001-05 that led to the good business growth Schweitzer is claiming credit for. He said Schweitzer has taken a $1 billion surplus and spent it down the $300 million by “exploding general fund spending by 44 percent in the last five years.”

Barrett said his office and a marketing committee of business people made the decision to feature Schweitzer in the ads, calling him “one of our best salesmen.”

Barrett said Essman and other Republican lawmakers and candidates signed a letter in the 2009 Legislature urging the state to launch an expanded business recruitment effort.

“I think promoting Montana economically is above politics,” Barrett said.

The state economic development office spent about $23,000 on the ads and received another $40,000 from private partners.

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