By Bill Johnstone of D.A. Davidson and Larry Simkins of the Washington Companies
In May 2013, Governor Bullock announced the creation of the Main Street Montana Project and asked us to serve as co-chairs. In seeking our involvement, the Governor underscored his commitment that the project would:
(1) Be non-partisan and driven by the private sector,
(2) Seek and listen to the thoughts and ideas of Montanans from all parts of the state,
(3) Result in practical and achievable initiatives to start, attract and retain and grow businesses, create jobs and improve wages,
(4) Establish accountability expectations and standards.
The Governor has been true to his word, and our work and this report have been undertaken and developed in that spirit.
Any project to craft a state economic development blueprint should be undertaken with considerable humility, particularly for a state as large and diverse as Montana. State economies are complex, significantly influenced by factors beyond our borders and control, and constantly changing. And, of course, we are not starting from a clean slate. Montana has extraordinary economic resources and strengths, including its citizens. It also faces certain weaknesses and challenges, some of which are inherent and need to be honestly acknowledged and realistically addressed.
Importantly, the Main Street Montana Project and this report must be seen as a living and dynamic initiative and document. Circumstances will change, and new ideas will surface as this project moves forward. We understand that the cost and availability of health care is a significant factor in economic and employment growth and will be the subject of continuing public policy discussion in the state. As this discussion evolves, we expect that more objectives and tasks related to health and wellness will be identified and included in the project. As it has been formulated, however, we believe the project and report have established a philosophy and framework that will endure over time and help the state and our regions build and maintain a climate in which business and workers can succeed in a thriving economy.