Gov. Steve Bullock released a statewide economic plan last week, emphasizing a business climate that fosters and retains a quality workforce to match the needs of a changing economy.
The plan was developed as part of the Main Street Montana Project, announced by Bullock in May 2013.
Key themes that emerged in the report reflect the need to continue marketing Montana as a brand, encourage responsible development of natural resources while protecting the state’s natural amenities that power the tourism industry, and nurture emerging innovation in technology.
Bullock appointed two prominent Montana businessmen, Larry Simkins, president of Washington Cos., and Bill Johnstone, CEO of Davidson Cos., to help lead the effort, which came together through the participation of at least 3,000 Montana residents. At least 1,000 Montanans attended roundtables around the state and another 2,000 participated in a survey.
“The enthusiastic participation of Montanans throughout the state far exceeded our initial expectations in May 2013,” according to the report’s executive summary. “As we implement the plan, we want to continue that effective collaboration. With the continued input and commitment of our fellow Montanans, we will make this blueprint a reality.”
The plan highlights five pillars for economic growth: Train and educate tomorrow’s workforce today; create a climate that attracts, retains and grows businesses; build upon Montana’s economic foundation; market Montana; and nurture emerging industries.
Rhonda Fitzgerald, chair of the Montana Tourism Advisory Council and owner of the Garden Wall Inn bed and breakfast in downtown Whitefish, echoed the report’s emphasis on marketing Montana’s open spaces and untouched landscapes.
“I think the pillar about marketing Montana and showcasing the spectacular unspoiled nature and vibrant downtowns is great,” she said. “We know that this is tremendously important. It is why we live and work here and it’s why companies are able to recruit and retain employees.”
Simkins will be in Kalispell next week to discuss the report at the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon, slated for noon, April 15 at the Red Lion Hotel inside the Kalispell Center Mall.
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