Bullock Tasks Business Leaders with Jobs Project

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock said Monday that two business leaders will scour the state for ways the government can improve the job creation environment for the private sector.

Bullock launched what he is calling the “Main Street Montana Project,” which at this point is just a proposal to collect ideas. It is being led by Washington Cos. CEO Larry Simkins and D.A. Davidson & Co. CEO Bill Johnstone.

The businessmen said they want ideas from local leaders to improve everything from workforce development to government regulations. It will start with local forums, the first of which will be in Billings later this month.

Both men said they expect to spend the rest of the year gathering information before giving Bullock recommendations in early 2014. Johnstone said the process will be driven by “facts, not ideology.”

“It is not going to be a government-driven effort. It is going to be a business, local community effort,” he said.

“We are going to look at everything, everything is on the table,” Simkins said.

The business leaders said recommendations for education and the way it helps prepare skilled workers are likely to be among the recommendations. They also plan to look at what other states are doing to ensure Montana is competitive.

Bullock said the idea is to provide recommendations he can implement as governor, rather than a long list of proposals that need legislative spending approval. He hopes the effort will identify obstacles to business growth that can be changed.

“This is focused on creating a business plan for Montana,” Bullock said.

The Billings forum is scheduled for 2 p.m. May 28 at the Broadway Downtown Center. Other forums in June will be in Missoula, Great Falls, Miles City and Bozeman.

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