Tim MacDonald Havre Daily News email@example.com
A Havre man returned to his hometown Thursday to speak to a group he helped found. “I can remember when we were called the Dirty Dozen.’ I can’t believe that now we are some 220 strong,” said Tony Preite, director of the Montana Department of Commerce. Preite was the keynote speaker at a luncheon at the Montana State University-Northern’s Student Union Building that kicked off the biennial meeting of the Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA). Paul Tuss of the Hi-Line’s Bear Paw Development Association was Master of Ceremonies at the luncheon that also featured MSU-N Chancellor Alex Capdeville, Havre Mayor Jim Rice and County Commissioner Kathy Bessette. Preite was one of the original developing forces behind Bear Paw. For the uninitiated, what an economic developer does is basically whatever he or she can to create a positive environment for new business. This ranges from establishing relationships with local governments, to finding grants and loans for start-up money, helping to find locations for plants and finding trained personnel. Basically they do everything they can to bring new businesses and jobs to the communities they represent. The governor and the Department of Commerce help back economic development, and Preite says Gov. Brian Schweitzer is a major proponent of growth. “For your information the governor is willing to request a large increase in workforce funds,” he said.
Preite said the time was ripe for economic growth in Montana and along the Hi-Line and that the governor has prioritized economic growth. He cited oil and gas development and bio-energy as present and future growth opportunities for the area, and touched on the coal gasification project which he said was still some two years down the road. “We can’t stop what we are doing,” Preite said in a post-luncheon interview. “For every large project like coal gasification there are dozens of others that look at employing 10, 15 or 25 employees. We have to keep working on those, too.” Preite saluted MSU-N’s training programs which are providing Montana workers for Montana jobs by training them in-state. Preite also said that he hoped the present growth in bio-energy development would help the agricultural community. “I hope to see this CRP land put back into production, this means jobs for all of those little communities along the Hi-line that appear to be dying. I hope they can become vital again,” he said.