We owe it to our kids and grandkids to leave this lace in better shape than we found it. That obligation covers everything from our pristine landscapes to our economy. That's why we started holding Montana Economic Development Summits in the first place. I got fed up seeing our best and brightest have to leave our state to find jobs that pay well. Thanks to the hard work of all of our partners over the years, our summits have risen to the occasion, providing lasting connections to build a better economy for generations to come.
The 2013 Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte was one of the biggest and the best. Together, with some of the most influential business leaders of our time and ambassadors from some of Montana's most important trading partners in the world, we helped sow the seeds for unlimited potential. By checking politics at the door and rolling up our sleeves, we elevated the status of our state globally. In fact, the Montana jobs summit became the most talked about topic on Twitter in the world on the first day of the summit. With 4,000 people in attendance and nearly 5,000 people watching our live online feed across the country and around the globe, we took a big step toward bringing new investment to our Main streets. That kind of exposure sends the message far and wide that Montana is not only a beautiful place to visit, but a great place to do business and create jobs.
Sowing the Seeds: Jobs for the Long Haul
This year's summit yielded some exciting business news that will open the door to hundreds of new Montana jobs:
* Boeing CEO Jim McNerney joined us to announce a $35 million expansion of the Boeing-Helena operation that will result in 20 to 25 new jobs and perhaps more down the road.
* Blue Cross Blue Shield announced a game changer for Great Falls with a new call center opening in the next few months that will put 100 to 150 folks to work.
* More than 170 Montanans received personalized training straight from Google to build cutting-edge websites that will better promote their businesses and sell Montana goods around the world--and Google kicked in free hosting for the sites for a year. These new websites will give Montana companies a big leg up on the competition, because over the next three years, businesses that make use of the Web can expect to grow 40 percent faster than those that don't.
In addition to these important announcements, we helped organize more than 150 one-on-one networking meetings to help Montana businesses make personalized pitches to investors and key decision-makers in some of the world's largest companies. I'll be personally helping to follow up on these meetings and standing by to cut through any red tape that gets in the way of Montana jobs.
Unlocking International Trade Potential
During the jobs summit, I joined Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer in sharing some big news for the Bakken. We unveiled a trade mission from Manitoba to bring Canadian companies to the booming oil region of eastern Montana this fall. Ambassadors from China, Germany, Japan, Peru, and Canada kicked off the very first panel discussion in Butte. During the panel, Peruvian Ambassador Harold Forsyth announced a partnership between the University of Montana and the Peruvian National Agricultural University to cooperate on forestry-related research and education programs. The partnership holds great potential for our forestry students and timber jobs for the long haul. These partnerships are critical to our economy because the more we can send our top-notch products around the world, the more jobs we can support here at home.
Follow Up and Follow Through
What we've learned from past summits is this: The key is follow up and follow through.
For example, past jobs summits laid the foundation for some of the best business success stories in Montana history, sparking investment in bioscience, aerospace, and technology as well as creating connections that have resulted in countless jobs that pay well. SeaCast--a family-run manufacturing company in Butte--is a great example (see sidebar, page 11). They connected with GE at our summit in 2010, which helped them double their workforce manufacturing jet engine parts. Another...