The governor of Montana came to Havre Wednesday to speak at the 39th Annual Economic Outlook Seminar held by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research with a simple message: Montana's economy is the envy of most states in the nation, but "we can do better."
Gov. Steve Bullock said he believes jobs come from private industry, not the government - but the government can help that industry and Montana residents, and also must avoid creating obstacles to success.
Bullock came to Havre after attending an event in Great Falls where he announced the state will award $325,000 to Great Falls College Montana State University to expand its welding program - adding that Montana State University-Northern's College of Technology also is positioned to train skilled workers in the state.
He said that Northern's provisionally patented bio-jet fuel could change not only what is happening in The Golden Triangle, but also in the fuel situation of the world.
Bullock also said the local communications cooperative is also working on one of his goals - improving communication and sharing ideas.
Triangle Communications' work to bring top-end modern communication to Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap Indian reservations will help his goal of businesses and agencies sharing information to help increase success, he said. Triangle and Hill County Electric Cooperative's work in the rest of the rural areas they serve and with programs like microloans to businesses do so too, he added.
But, he said, the state also needs to improve in an area that gives keys to success long before "the doors open and they start to welcome customers."
That is in the classroom, Bullock said, adding that some improvement already has been made.
Montana's dropout rate has dropped for three state years, with all but 15 percent of students graduating - "and 1 percent is too many, but we're improving," he said.
Another goal is making certain Montana's colleges and universities are offering courses and degrees Montana businesses want and are needed for Montana jobs - and that students are graduating with those courses and degrees, Bullock said.
He said a major effort on his part is starting even earlier with education, like a long-term business investment - which he said would pay $7 to $9 back for every dollar invested.
Bullock said Montana is one of only a double-handful of states with no state-funded early education, and he wants to start guaranteeing access to pre-kindergarten programs to everyone.
Studies show that early childhood education reduces dropout rate and has a corresponding reduction in poverty, crime rates and other related problems, Bullock said.
"I think its about time that we
do ... ," he said. "And, it's not just a good thing overall, it's a good investment."