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Gazette Editorial

At the conclusion of his Economic Development Summit a year ago, Sen. Max Baucus was asked what will make this plan different from the many others launched by Montana and its elected officials over the past 25 y ears.

Baucus said, “My name’s on the line here. I have to produce.”

The line got a bit more crowded for Summit II last weekend in Great Falls, as Gov. Judy Martz, Sen. Conrad Burns and Congressman Denny Rehberg joined Baucus in sponsoring the gathering.

But the need to produce did not change.

Truth be told, the real work has been delegated to Billings banker Tom Scott and members of the Economic Development Action Group, the statewide task force that Baucus assembled after last year’s summit. The group, which Scott chairs, has been laying the foundation of a plan to boost the state’s economy. Armed with dozens of pages full of recommendations from Summit II, the group left Great Falls with the assignment to build a solid plan of attack in the next two months.

The recommendations came from participants who attended a series of brainstorming sessions. Among their priorities: strengthen the state’s education system, examine our tax structure, improve relations between government and the state’s Native American population, market Montana as a great place to do business, develop the skills of our work force, invest in technology and transportation, protect consumers’ access to affordable power and nurture our export market.

“Now it’s time for action, time for a nuts-and-bolts plan — an agenda we can all get our hands around and a step-by-step process that will help boost Montana’s economy,” the sponsors said in a joint statement issued as the conference ended.

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Expectations across the state are running high.

The foundation, a year in the making, has taken shape.

Now the real work begins.

Economic Development Action Group Tom Scott (chairman of task force), chairman, First Interstate Bancsystem, Billings.

David Bayless, director, Montana Business Information Council, Bozeman.

Diane Brandt, co-owner, Sam’s Supper Club; president, Montana Walleyes Unlimited, Glasgow.

Ian Davidson, chairman, DADCO, Great Falls.

Gene Fenderson, president, Montana District Council of Laborers, Helena.

Charlie Grenier, former vice president, Plum Creek Timber Co., Columbia Falls.

Susan Humble, president, Anderson Steel, Great Falls.

Rep. Carol Juneau, state legislator, Browning.

Jon Marchi, president, Montana Ambassadors, Polson.

Joe McDonald, founder and president, Salish Kootenai College.

John Olson, president, Blue Rock Companies, Sidney.

Don Peoples, president and CEO of Montana Economic Development and Revitalization Institute and MSE Inc., Butte.

Roger Petersen, president and CEO, PPL Montana, Billings.;

Steve Roth, president, IX Ranch, Big Sandy.;

Dee Russell, chief financial officer, Montana Business Innovation Council and founder of Therapeutic Entertainment Products Inc., Bozeman.

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, executive director, Montana Community Development Corp., Missoula.

Virginia Sloan, business advocate, Flathead Job Service Workforce Center, Kalispell.

Bruce Whittenberg, president, Sutton’s Sportswear, Billings.

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