Montana’s senior senator is making a call to Montana business owners for ideas on how to improve the nation’s northern border to increase trade and jobs in Montana.
“Together, we have seen first-hand the great potential our northern border holds for Montana trade and job creation, ” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a message sent to Montana Chambers of Commerce and business leaders. “Already, Canada is Montana’s largest export market by far, and trade with Canada employs about 28,000 Montanans each year.
“This past September, we organized a trade mission to Alberta to explore additional opportunities for Montana to do business, ” Baucus added in the note. “And I believe we can do even more to help Montana entrepreneurs take advantage of the market potential to our north. ”
The issue has been a hot topic in north-central Montana, with coalitions calling for upgrading the Port of Wild Horse north of Havre to a commercial, 24-hour port. Currently, the Port of Sweetgrass north of Shelby is the only 24-hour commercial port between Montana and Alberta.
This past summer, a second test of extending the summer hours — normally the 8 a. m. to 9 p. m. hours run from May 15 to Sept. 30 — to run from March 1 through Oct. 31.
Problems occurred when the Canadian side didn’t extend the summer hours in the fall of 2010, and last spring did not officially include commercial traffic in pushing the summer hours back to March 1.
The winter hours of the port are 8 a. m. to 5 p. m., and commercial vehicles only can use the port if they are issued a permit.
Havre Mayor Tim Solomon has requested the summer hours be extended again next year, with the hope Canada would fully mirror the extension, to give a better picture of what that would do to the number of commercial vehicles using the port.
Baucus, who organized the trade mission of 20 representatives from 14 Montana businesses and organizations to Canada in September, is chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which has sole jurisdiction on international trade, including the trade portions of U. S. Customs and Border Protection operations.
In his survey, he asks the representatives of the Chambers, businesses and organizations to respond to seven questions:
1. Have you done business in Canada in the past, or do you have plans to do business in Canada in the future?
2. If you are doing business in Canada, which northern border entry point(s) do you use?
3. Please rate the following experiences 1-5 (1 unacceptable to 5 acceptable).
• Rate your experience traveling north from Montana into Canada
• The average wait time getting into Canada is ...
• Rate your experience traveling from Canada back into the United States
• The average wait time getting back into the United State is ...
4. Are port locations and/or hours convenient? If no, please provide reasons.
5. If you are not doing business in Canada, are there barriers at the border that prevent or deter you from doing so? If yes, please describe these barriers.
6. What can be done to make the northern border more business friendly?
7. How has crossing the border to do business changed in the last 10 years?
A representative of Baucus’ office said people who did not receive a survey are welcome to reply, and people can contact his offices for more information and replies can be made online using the contact form at his website, www.baucus.senate.gov, or mail responses in.
The contact information for Baucus’ Great Falls office is: 113 3rd St. N., Great Falls, MT 59401, (406) 761-1574, or in Washington at 511 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510; (202) 224-2651, office; or (202) 224-9412, fax.