Remarks of Governor Judy Martz
Missoula Chamber of Commerce
September 19, 2001
Check Against Delivery
Thank you so much for the opportunity to join you here this evening. And thank you for being here. We need your continued effort and interest to help us lead Montana forward.
We've had a great day - as we held our second Capital for a Day program in Hamilton. We visited schools, businesses, and agencies. At noon the Chamber hosted a lunch for us.
So being here tonight with the Missoula Chamber of Commerce is a fitting end to the day.
I know that you have a great speaker tonight, so I'm grateful to have a few minutes to talk about economic development before he takes the podium.
If Montana is to experience the growth we want and need in this new century - we must work as one -- united to the core.
Our rural heritage and our sense of community make us who we are - resilient, resourceful and determined people. We're in this together - and only together shall we overcome our challenges to build new jobs - new futures - a new Montana.
Just a few short months in office, we are already making progress!
Our Jobs and Opportunities Initiative is a comprehensive strategy for applying our traditional values to build this new Montana.
Despite some setbacks, Montana's private sector is creating jobs. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in 22 years - and last year alone we created 10,500 new jobs.
This year, we've already added 6,660 new jobs, and my administration is committed to creating more.
As our office works to that end, I also want to commend Missoula for the economic growth you've seen in your community. In 2000, Missoula County added 1,600 new jobs, mostly in retail trade, construction, general services and health services.
Your population has grown by over 10 percent, but your unemployment is only 3.6 percent - which is an improvement over 4.5% just one year ago.
And, as the economy in Missoula and the surrounding area grows, the well being of your citizens is improving as well. The average annual wage in Missoula County has increased and now stands at $24,476, which is over $1000 hirer than the state's average.
Working together, we will do more by continuing to make economic growth, education funding, energy development and tax reform our top priorities.
I want you to know that our most fundamental principle is that the people who are already in business here employing Montanans, paying taxes, and contributing to their communities deserve a government that will remove barriers to business growth and expansion.
You - Montana's existing businesses and business leaders -- are my first focus.
As many of you know, my husband and I have been small business owners nearly all of our adult lives. We personally know what it takes to sacrifice so that your employees can be paid. We know what it's like to be up at daybreak and still working at sunset in order to pay the bills and keep the doors to your business open.
That's why the centerpiece of my economic plan involved a comprehensive reorganization of the Department of Commerce with legislation we passed during this past Legislature.
Through that legislation, our goal is to make it easier for you to do business in this great state.
The Department of Commerce is now specifically focused on economic development, on doing what is necessary for you to succeed - to maintain, build, and expand your businesses here in Montana.
Mark Simonich, director of the department, has joined me here this evening. If you'd join me in welcoming him. (applause)
Mark has placed some brochures on your table which describe some of our outreach programs under the umbrella of what we call "Business Montana". I hope that you'll take a brochure with you.
I want to emphasize that we're here to support your local business efforts, and that we welcome your suggestions and ideas to improve Montana's business climate.
I won't leave this office without making Montana a more business friendly place.
In a recent study conducted by the Montana Ambassadors, our state came out dead last among the 50 states being regarded as a good place to do business. That has to change. And with the work of organizations like the Missoula Chamber - that will change.
I'm very impressed to see the Business Locator Wizard that you, as a chamber, have placed on your web site. What a great way to let visitors to your site know about your membership - the businesses that are so critically important to Missoula and to our state.
Together, we'll put Montana "on the business map", and turn the state's image as a vacation destination into an equally recognized business location.
To get the ball rolling we have already begun drafting that plan, with quantifiable goals and objectives, to create the climate that will keep our kids working and raising families in Montana.
These are some of the things we'll focus on:
I want to lower the top marginal income tax rates that are negatively impact development and growth. We need a tax structure that gives Montanans the incentive to turn their ideas into jobs -- their visions into realities. I also want to reaffirm my commitment to not raising taxes.
Education is also critically important. We have great schools - and we're producing excellent students. We must craft curriculums at all levels to match the needs of job creators in the 21st century.
In addition to transitioning to the 'new economy', I remain committed to our traditional resource sectors like agriculture, resource development, timber harvest, transportation and manufacturing.
The world is a highly competitive environment these days. I think that we would all agree that Montana is a great place to live. Now our challenge is to prove that Montana is also a great place to do business.
We must collectively send a message loud and clear -- far and wide -- that Montana is open for business.
Congratulations on being here to lead Missoula - and Montana forward. Thank you for taking the interest in becoming involved with improving our economy. We need you.
I know if we all roll up our sleeves and work together, we can make this a better place for all of us.
Thank you and God bless.