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hree years ago, we launched the first Montana Economic Development Summit, which was designed to bring Montanans together to boost our state's economy and create good-paying jobs.

We've come a long way since then. Our biggest accomplishment so far has been to shine the light on our economy to find ways to create momentum to move our state forward. Now we are all working together on our number one goal: Creating more good-paying jobs in Montana.

We've said all along that we're not going to immediately turn our economy around. It's going to take all of us - business, labor, educators, entrepreneurs, elected officials, and, most important of all, the private sector - working together to take the steps necessary to make our economy more competitive in the 21st century.

That's why we - the governor, congressional delegation and Economic Development Action Group - are jointly organizing and hosting the third Economic Development Summit in Billings Wednesday and Thursday.

Action time We will discuss the nuts and bolts of moving our economy forward, and find ways to take concrete actions to attract and retain business and create more good-paying jobs so our kids can stay here to work and raise their families.

It's time for action.

That's not to say we haven't done anything since the first summit three years ago.

Those economic summits resulted in the creation of the Economic Development Action Group with members who have focused on the importance of education in strengthening economic development. The Governor's Office of Economic Development was created and continues to work with all of us and other groups across Montana to develop a strategic plan - a road map - for our state's economic development.

Those summits also resulted in Montanans from all over the state talking to one another on ways we can enhance our economy. Those networks, which continue today, are vitally important in forging strong relationships to help our communities and move our state forward economically.

This summit in Billings will focus on two major economic development issues:

Business recruitment (attracting new business to Montana) and business retention (keeping our existing businesses in Montana).

Industry clusters - a fancy term for grouping like businesses and workers in specific geographic areas so they can work with one another and grow.

Capitalizing on clusters

Summit detailsThe Montana Economic Development Summit is being organized by Gov. Judy Martz, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and the Economic Development Action Group. The May 28-29 summit is free of charge and open to the public. Individuals can register by calling (406) 256-6871 or logging on to

The summit will focus on ways Montana can capitalize on industry groupings (clusters) that have a competitive advantage in terms of workforce, location and specialized services and supporting institutions. This will give business leaders and local economic developers better tools so they can create new jobs and grow our economy.

We also will talk about ways we can recruit new business to Montana and keep businesses growing and prospering in our great state. That's as simple as picking up the phone and promoting Montana, or getting on a plane and visiting with corporate executives to convince them to stay or do business in Montana.

These are economic development fundamentals - the nuts and bolts of job creation and concrete steps we can take together to move our state forward.

Cisco success The keynote speaker will be John Morgridge, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems. Morgridge, who transformed Cisco Systems into the worldwide leader in Internet networking, will share his knowledge of the role that education plays in business recruitment and development.

Other keynote speakers will be NASA astronaut Scott "Doc" Horowitz, who will speak on Montana's role in space exploration and technology, and Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco, who oversees employment and training programs.

The summit also will feature a series of breakout sessions hosted by the congressional delegation on important sectors of our economy, including opportunities in the health care, energy, aerospace and defense industries in Montana. There will also be a series of breakout sessions to discuss ways to grow Montana's existing economic clusters in our service businesses, high-technology sector and our traditional industries.

We're proud to be hosting this economic development summit, which will bring the state's top leaders together to continue our focus on strengthening our economy.

The only way to do that is by working together.

We invite all Montanans to the 2003 Montana Economic Development Summit. Please join us, our recognized speakers and our cosponsors.

With your help, we can have a lasting impact on Montana's economy and ensure a bright future for our kids and grandkids.