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Private Sector Input Drives Montana Business Plan

April 09, 2014

Montana’s new business plan commissioned by Gov. Steve Bullock outlines five overarching themes, described as pillars, with specific goals, objectives and tasks for diversifying the state’s economy. Encouraging innovation and supporting emerging industries is the focus of one pillar, with recommendations for strengthening the role of universities, establishing funding streams for entrepreneurs, and developing a network of statewide business mentors. The Main Street Montana Project was lead by two top business leaders in the state to ensure private sector buy-in, according to the governor.

The team convened seven roundtables in each of the state’s five geographic locations and tribal communities to gather information about challenges and opportunities facing businesses and workers. Participants included representatives from business, labor, education, local government, nonprofit, and other interest groups. They also visited surrounding states to look at best practices and analyze Montana’s regional competitiveness.

In general, Montanans recognized the importance of their quality of life, but wanted the economy to become more diversified with stronger wages and more jobs, according to the report.

The three goals and some of the objectives and tasks outlined under the pillar “Nurture Emerging Industries and Encouraging Innovation” include:

  • Strengthen the role of universities as technology incubators through research, development and commercialization.
    • Objectives include: strengthening research partnerships between post-secondary institutions and the private sector to find private funding streams. Tasks include: establishing a public-private partnership fund for endowed research scholarships and investigating public and private permanent funding mechanisms for research grants and scholarships.
  • Foster innovation and support knowledge-based industry efforts to locate and grow in Montana.
    • Objectives include: stimulating investment in innovation and startup companies and supporting workforce needs and opportunities of high-tech industry and knowledge-based economy. Tasks include: identifying successful strategies from other states to incentivize innovation and determine how to implement those processes in Montana.
  • Support entrepreneurs and small businesses to enhance their potential to achieve growth and sustainability.
    • Objectives include: encouraging successful entrepreneurs and serial entrepreneurs to be visible role models and give back to new businesses. Tasks include: developing a statewide network of business mentors from specific industries and sectors and identify and recruit companies with high growth potential to participate.

The report notes that while many of the ideas can be accomplished without legislative change, some will require action by the legislature. In 2015, the team will issue its first annual report chronicling measures of success. View the plan at: http://www.mainstreetmontanaproject.com/.

Montanastrategic plan, private initiatives