Montana Chamber: Setting the Bar for Entrepreneurs

To be in business is noble and virtuous.
To implement a plan for a good environment in Montana for business will cost Montana Chamber members a million dollars.
Business people were called upon by Greg Gianforte to be proud of what they do in the private sector, and to do their part in planting “a spark” of entrepreneurship in young people. Gianforte underscored the importance of business in Montana as the featured speaker for the Montana Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed the Republican in his bid for Governor against Democrat incumbent Steve Bullock.
Gianforte told a packed house during the Chamber’s annual meeting last Thursday in Billings that there are not enough young people interested in becoming entrepreneurs. “We all have an obligation to plant the sparks of entrepreneurship. It cannot be taught in the classroom,” he said.
To do all that he can to improve Montana’s position as 49th in wage levels, is the reason Gianforte wants to be governor of the state. “We need to keep our kids here,” he said, and, that means “we must make it easier for big and small business.”
Gianforte’s goal is in sync with the Montana Chamber of Commerce’s “Envision” program, “a plan for Montana’s future,” details for which were laid out during the meeting.
Gianforte said that in visiting a high school he asked how many students thought they would like to be entrepreneurs. Only two or three would raise their hands.
“If we don’t have young people starting business we won’t have a future,” he said, “That is going to be a tragedy.”
Gianforte said he was surprised when in visiting high schools the students indicated that they believed it was morally superior to be involved in non-profits than for-profits in the private sector. Where did they get that idea?
He said he asked them, “Where did your house, your car or your I-phone come from?” He pointed out that the private sector is the source of all that they need to sustain their lives. And, he went on to say, “If we don’t have the private sector we don’t have government, education and infrastructure.”
“We are not introducing our young people to entrepreneurship…The beauty of starting with young kids is they don’t know anything is impossible.. . If you tell them to start a business they will start a business.”
Gianforte contended that “This is an extremely important discussion, because business and success has become villainized.” For the sake of the youth and our future, “We can’t continue to allow the private sector to continue to be villainized.”
He urged business people to stand up for what they do because “the work you do is intently noble and virtuous.”
Gianforte quoted Winston Churchill, saying, “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.”
Gianforte’s remarks about the importance of both big and small businesses in Montana, dovetailed with those of Todd O’Hair of Cloud Peak Energy, who was named new Chairman of the Board for the Montana Chamber of Commerce, replacing Aimee Grmoljez of Crowley Fleck Attorneys.
O’Hair said that while he represents “a big out-of-state” company, he recognizes the importance of small businesses and knows that a regulation or small fee is “a big deal for small business.” The Chamber, he said, is going to do “what we can to ease the tax system,” and to improve infrastructure. “We don’t care whose fault it is, we are going to put our money where our mouth is. Too many Montana cities are in need of infrastructure and we will push for changes in the 2017 legislature to do something about infrastructure.”
O’Hair grew up on a cattle ranch outside of Livingston and his wife is a small business owner, so even though he works for the largest coal mine in Montana, O’Hair said he knows the plight of small business. But he said, “I get disappointed in this state when I hear a negative confrontation about large out of state companies.” He posed questions about why companies that provide good paying jobs, enormous amounts of taxes, and operate in a safe and responsible manner should be so maligned. Why “bemoan” such companies?
“We need more big business to come and stay in Montana,” he said, “We need to protect the environment” for both big and small businesses.
The Chamber of Commerce laid out what was called a “bold” program to address the business environment in Montana. To achieve the “lofty goals,” will not be easy and it will not be free, said Ed Garding of First Interstate BancSystem, who has headed a fundraising committee to raise $1 million to advance the four-point plan. He announced that they have already raised $800,000.
The results of a successful Envision plan will deliver 1000 new primary jobs, and an additional 1,002 secondary jobs. The primary jobs are expected to pay $22.30 an hour, which will generate $73.5 million in additional annual earnings, which means over $40 million in consumer spending.
The plan calls for, over the next ten years, putting Montana in the top half of all states in per capita personal income; remain in the top ten of all states in per capita personal income growth; emerge in the top ten of all states as a good environment for business; and to emerge in the top ten of states in terms of job growth.
The goals will be achieved by providing a qualified workforce – the top concern of Montana business people. Much of that effort will focus on improving education opportunities by improving the dialogue between education and the business community, and to improve the flexibility of the education and training institutions.
Also important to strengthen business in Montana will be the reduction of cost and difficulty of doing business. That requires simplifying the tax system, reducing worker’s compensation costs while improving workplace safety; supporting a balanced Supreme Court in order to have a more predictable business environment; improve the legal environment; reduce extraneous permitting regulations and licensing, and improving the regulatory environment.
Montana rates a C- grade in terms of its infrastructure. To improve that grade will require supporting legislation to promote public investment in basic services and supporting candidates who are committed to strategic infrastructure development.
Montana has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the nation – to maintain that position and improve upon it will also be important to the future of the state.

From Big Sky Business Journal