Apr 1, 2013 8:35 PM by KPAX News
BILLINGS- U.S. Senator Max Baucus kicked off a statewide tour Monday with stops in Harlowton and Billings aimed at promoting his 6th Economic Development Summit in Butte this September.
The ‘Montana Solutions Jobs Tour' will take Baucus throughout the state as he announces keynote speakers for the free summit which Baucus says promises Montana businesses the opportunity to network in a "no politics" environment.
"The goal is to introduce people on a stage to Montana and help Montanans, Montana businessmen and women, be exposed to lots of different out of state companies," Baucus told a crowd comprised of local business leaders gathered for an afternoon listening session.
Monday's event was held at Sanderson-Stewart, a Billings-based engineering firm with satellite offices in Bozeman and Williston, North Dakota.
The director of business development at Sanderson-Stewart, Rick Leuthold, says the company attributes recent success to developments in energy business in eastern Montana and North Dakota, making it a fitting choice for Baucus to highlight the benefits of the Economic Development Summit.
"This conference is going to have an energy bend to it because this is an energy state," said Baucus.
Baucus unveiled his first keynote speaker of the September 16th and 17th summit, native Montanan and ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance. Lance graduated from Great Fall High School and earned a degree from Montana Tech University in Petroleum Engineering.
Previous keynote speakers at the summit have included Warren Buffett, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Previous summits drew as many as 2000 participants, but this year Baucus hopes to draw 2500 people from the United States and around the world for the event.
"This is something that really works," said Baucus. "It's not a political gabfest."
Montana Chamber of Commerce president Webb Brown joined Baucus on his tour today to help promote the summit.
When Brown addressed the Billings business leaders, he mentioned that although businesses like Sanderson-Stewart have seen recent success, Montana could always do better.
The latest statistics from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics seem to back Brown's statement.
Montana currently sits at a 6.4% unemployment rate, compared to the nation's 7.7%.
And although urban areas such as Yellowstone County (4.7%) sport low unemployment, directly to the south the mostly rural Big Horn County (16.7%) holds the worst unemployment rate in the state.
Brown says he believes the summit will offer opportunities for those looking to break through the sometimes struggling climate of rural Montana.
"One of the good topics might be entrepreneurialism and how small businesses can start anywhere in Montana," said Brown. "We had a conversation in Harlowton today at noon with a company that does business in Australia and London-- around the world. And they're right there in Harlowton, Montana."
Baucus' job tour will take him to Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Butte later this week.
Montana's senior U.S. Senator says he plans on revealing more keynote speakers for this year's summit during those stops.