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Gov. Steve Bullock’s Main Street Montana project, a public-private partnership to develop and implement a state business plan, is moving ahead with his appointment of some top business leaders to serve as co-chairs of a dozen industry sectors.

“There are CEOs from banks to manufacturing to construction to hospitals that are engaged and want to start taking parts of the plan and say how can we be part of it,” Bullock said.

Bullock, consulting with the project co-chairs, Bill Johnstone, president and CEO of D.A. Davidson Cos. and Larry Simkins, CEO of Washington Cos., recently appointed co-chairs from across the state to head a dozen of what they call Key Industry Networks, or KINs. (See sidebar on page 4A for a list of the co-chairs of each network.)

The co-chairs, working with Bullock, Johnstone and Simkins, in turn will select others to serve on each of the networks. In all, each KIN will have 10-12 members, although some may be larger. The administration hopes to have them ready to go by the end of July.

Mae Nan Ellingson, a Missoula attorney, has been hired as coordinator of the Main Street Montana Project to work with Bullock, Johnstone and Simkins and the KIN co-chairs.

Jim Molloy, Bullock’s senior policy adviser, is spearheading the effort with the governor’s department directors.

The goal is to build a private and public sector partnership to achieve expanded business opportunities, increased wages and greater prosperity throughout Montana, Bullock said. Each KIN will tackle certain sectors of the Montana economy, from agriculture to energy to construction to transportation.

In his State of the State address, shortly after taking office in January 2013, Bullock laid out his three priorities for the state: better jobs, a better educational system and a better state government.

“The Main Street Montana plan that came out really does reflect those priorities,” Bullock said. “We’re building off a great foundation. This year, 11,000 jobs were added and unemployment is down to 4.6 percent.”

His administration now is taking pieces of the Main Street plan, which was released in April, and implementing parts of them.

“Parts of it are being worked on each and every day,” Bullock said.

He’s pleased with what has happened so far.

“I think we’ve gotten some great engagement form the private sector,” Bullock said. “You always want things to go quicker. On the other hand, just like building a business, that doesn’t happen overnight.”

Bullock said he’ll present some of the Main Street recommendations as proposed legislation to be considered in the 2015 session. Others won’t take changes in law but can be done administratively.

“We’ll be drawing off Main Street plans as well as what others bring to us on the industry sectors,” he said.

But Main Street Montana is an ongoing project and won’t be completed in its entirety by

Dec. 31.

“I told the CEOs I hope what we’re doing will outlast my tenure as governor,” Bullock said.

From the start, Bullock has said he wanted the project to be nonpartisan. He appointed some Republicans as KIN co-chairs, including state Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo.

“My experience is it’s very nonpartisan,” Peterson said. “One of the questions I asked was, was this going to be nonpartisan. I was assured by Bill Johnstone and Larry Simkins it was. They emphasized that this is a nonpartisan effort to identify areas where we can add value and grow the economy of Montana.”

Most recent Montana governors have undertaken their own efforts to write a state business plan, but few if any of them had much impact. Most of them have been long since forgotten.

“Both Bill and Larry said we don’t want a plan that’s going to gather dust on the shelf,” Peterson said. “Each of the 12 sectors has been charged with come up with realistic, doable goals.”

Bullock already announced changes in Montana’s State Revolving Loan Program that will reduce water and sewer bills for Montana ratepayers in some communities by $29 million. He also awarded $325,000 to Great Falls College-Montana State University to enhance its welding program. (See sidebar.)

State government also will play a role implementing parts of the plan.

On April 3, the day the plan was released, Bullock signed an executive order directing all state agencies to cooperate and assist in the implementation of the tasks identified in the Main Street Montana Project. The director of each department was charged with ensuring that the agencies comply with the order.

The administration will be monitoring the progress and the implementation of elements in the business plan.

Regional meetings for Main Street Montana are planned around the state, starting with one in Glendive on July 15, followed by meetings in Billings, Polson, Fairmont and Great Falls.

The Bullock administration also is working with tribal nations and setting up Main Street Montana meetings on each of the seven reservations. Lt. Gov. Angela McLean attended meetings with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on June 24 and with the Crow Nation on Wednesday.

Either Bullock or McLean will be attending all of these regional and tribal meetings.

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