Affordable airfare, higher education, low wages, and quality of life are among the challenges and opportunities business leaders from across the state identify as hampering or helping economic growth. These questions of opportunities and challenges are being asked as part of Governor Steve Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project. Governor Bullock said it’s a bottom up economic development plan to create a blueprint for job growth in Montana.
“Then the next steps from there really are to take the data and information we’ve gathered from this, and go on the County by County level; because, really developing a business plan for a state as large as ours; really there’s going to be different challenges and opportunities,” Bullock said.
Co-Chair of the Project Larry Simkins is also the CEO of The Washington Companies. The Project has hosted economic round table discussions in Kalispell, Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Miles City, and Bozeman. He said recurring themes include education and workforce development.
“Infrastructure has been another big issue; whether it’s infrastructure in roads and infrastructure in eastern Montana, to broadband and technology infrastructure as well. So, it’s been a wide variety of big items and small items as well. Some of the smaller items; well, CDL licenses in eastern Montana take a little bit too long to get truck drivers in the seats,” Simkins said.
The Project next heads to Fort Belknap. The next steps involve sorting all the information gathered, sending out county surveys, and communicating with neighboring states to see what’s working there, and address issues of competitiveness. The goal is to have a blueprint put together by the first quarter of 2014.