Gov. hopes surveys spark economic development ideas

Aug 9, 2013

Gov. Steve Bullock is asking the public to help flesh out a plan for economic development in the state.

The Main Street Montana Project wrapped up a series of seven roundtable discussions in different communities in July. The governor is now hoping to collect ideas through surveys. He said he wants to figure out what works for businesses and what doesn’t—from the businesses themselves.

"Really, a bottoms-up approach to economic development, to put together a blueprint for where we are and where we need to go," Bullock said.

So, the first step is collecting those ideas. The project is co-chaired by Washington Companies President and CEO Larry Simkins and D.A. Davidson and Company President and CEO Bill Johnstone. They’ve been holding these roundtables around the state for the past couple months. Bullock said they’ve heard from about a thousand Montanans through these discussions. He went to two of them.

“Some things I heard is the importance of a talented and trained workforce,” he said, along with access to capital, transportation issues, and internet infrastructure.

But, the governor points out Montana is a big state, and the challenges vary widely. It will take time to narrow down priorities--and, hopefully, more public feedback. Bullock said the project is actively conducting surveys in all of Montana’s 56 counties. He also invites all members of the public to take the survey on the project’s website.

The governor said it might be called the Main Street Montana Project, but the focus is overall economic well-being.

"I guess keeping a downtown or a main street vibrant isn't just also the businesses on that street, it's the overall state and people coming into our communities," he said.

Organizers plan to finish a report early in 2014 compiling suggestions into a specific set of proposals. Some of those could be ideas for the 2015 Legislature.