By Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana
With pristine views, amazing outdoor opportunities and blue ribbon trout streams, Montana has plenty to offer folks looking to take advantage of our natural treasures; however, what many folks do not know is that we have economic and businesses opportunities to match.
Boasting low unemployment, more Montanans on the job than ever before, one of the best businesses tax climates in the nation, and a workforce that is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and experience to fill today’s most in-demand careers; it is a great place for businesses looking to expand, or entrepreneurs searching for a place to make their dream a reality.
The Montana economy continues to flourish with solid foundations in agriculture, mining, and tourism.
Montana has long been known as the Treasure State due to its wealth of natural resources. Montana copper played no small role in the electrification of the U.S. The state’s mines helped electrify the nation and powered the first trains into the west, and its vast forests and productive plains have provided food and shelter not only to our nation but to the world. Montana continues to thrive in the 21st century, thanks not only to our abundant natural resources but due to our excellent business climate and the quality of our people.
While the importance of these anchor industries should not be underestimated, we continue to diversify our state’s economy and jobs in fields such as manufacturing, healthcare, agricultural processing and many more. Montana is home to one of the highest concentrations of photonics companies in the world and our manufacturers produce some of the highest-quality outdoor equipment available. My administration is focused on continuing to grow our economic foundation while ensuring emerging industries have the infrastructure and workforce they need to succeed in the global economy. We recently made the most significant investment in our state’s history to support innovative research projects that leverage Montana’s strengths to bring ideas to market and create jobs.
Montana is a great place for businesses big and small. With no sales tax, Montana is consistently listed as one of the top ten states in the nation for our business tax climate and was recently honored with having the most equitable tax system of any of the 50 states. I’ve built on this strength by cutting taxes for every business in the state, and eliminating the businesses equipment tax for two-thirds of those who pay it, ensuring that businesses big and small can invest more money into growing and expanding their operation.
We have built this strong tax climate, without jeopardizing our state’s fiscal strength. Here in Montana, we know how to balance a state budget. I have insisted that the state manage its budget like a business; spend only within our means, maintain a healthy rainy day fund that prepares us for unexpected challenges, and always be looking to make strategic investments that will pay off. It is this approach that has earned Montana the title of most fiscally prudent state in the nation. I am proud to say that, unlike many states, we have not had to raise taxes to cover deficits and we have frozen tuition at our public universities thanks to our sound fiscal management.
I am also taking steps to ensure that state government is effectively serving the people and businesses in Big Sky Country. Early on in my administration, I tasked my cabinet and all state of Montana employees to survey existing regulations and administrative rules to identify areas where we could streamline the rules, eliminate redundancy, and repeal outdated regulations. By taking these steps, we will give more predictability and ensures fairness to Montana’s businesses. I am proud to say that since that time, we have repealed or streamlined more than 700 rules and regulations that were unnecessary, unwarranted or stood in the way of economic growth, and that number continues to grow.
We have also taken steps to ensure that we are considering the impact that any new rules have on businesses in our state. I have also signed into law a measure that ensures that before any new rules are implemented by state government, that state agencies produce a business impact statement to examine how these rules will affect industries in our state either positively or negatively.
While we recognize that importance of a business-friendly tax climate and streamlined regulations, we also know that access to a deep pool of talented and trained workers is critical for any business success. I am pleased to say that Montana is leading the nation in efforts to build on the skills of our workforce to ensure they are prepared to meet the demands of our growing economy today and into the future.
Through the RevUp Montana and HealthCARE Montana programs, our state has invested more than $40 million dollars to develop innovative workforce training programs. Through these grants, we’ve brought together private employers, educators, and workforce development professionals to build career training curricula that will equip Montana workers with skills in the growing fields of welding, high-tech manufacturing, health sciences, and more. Through these partnerships, we are ensuring Montana workers—whether they are just entering the workforce or looking to upskill after years on the job—can get hands-on experience in these fields.
We are also expanding apprenticeship opportunities throughout our state and economy. While building on the traditional apprenticeship fields of constructions, welding, and electrical work, we are also introducing new and innovative apprenticeships in our state’s fastest growing industry: health care. Through these programs, Montanans can gain valuable skills, while earning a paycheck, and businesses ensure that they continue to have workers that are prepared to fill the jobs that are available.
We know though that training the workforce of tomorrow cannot wait until someone has graduated high school or is in college. We should be taking steps to ensure that throughout their educational career they are building a foundation that will serve them in their professional lives. That is why we are expanding career training programs at all levels of education across our state.
Through innovative partnerships, students in Montana high schools now have the opportunity to earn college credit and career certifications before they graduate. Programs like the Health Science Academy at Big Sky High School in Missoula, and the triad program at Columbia Falls High School, are bolstering classroom education with hands-on skills building, ensuring that no matter what path students take after graduation, they’re equipped to succeed.
Our state currently boasts record high school graduation rates, and one of the best educated workforces in the nation, but we know our work is not done until every student earns a high school degree; this is why we are expanding programs to emphasize the importance of graduation and providing specialized assistance where necessary. Today, more schools than ever are offering the successful Jobs for Montana’s Graduates program that provides at-risk students with career training opportunities, professional development skills, and ensures they earn their diploma.
With a strong economic foundation, a diversifying economy, a state government that is effective and responsive to the needs businesses, and an unmatched workforce, there is plenty to be excited about in Montana’s economy right now and going into the future. Here in Big Sky Country though, we are not ones to rest on the satisfaction of a job well-done, which is why we are constantly working to ensure that Montana continues to be the best place in the nation to live, work, play and raise a family.
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