- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Steve Bullock released an economic development plan Thursday that he said aims to attract and keep more businesses in Montana and train the state’s workers in emerging technologies.

The report, which the Democratic governor called the Main Street Montana Business Plan, is the product of 10 months of roundtables, surveys and one-on-one meetings with thousands of industry, labor, community and governmental leaders across the state.

Its authors distilled the information they received to identify five key areas in which to boost development: workforce training, improving the business climate, marketing the state, nurturing emerging industries and building on Montana’s economic foundation.

Within each of those areas is a set of goals that business and community leaders will work on developing into specific proposals in the coming months, said Bill Johnstone, one of the report’s authors.

Those goals range from building job-training partnerships between the private and public sectors to streamlining natural resource regulations while protecting the environment.

“This project will be private-sector driven,” Johnstone said.

Johnstone is president and CEO of D.A. Davidson and Co. Bullock tapped him and Larry Simkins of the Washington Cos. to develop a plan that will make the state competitive and attract, retain and grow businesses.

They called it a nonpartisan plan that outlines concrete steps and say it won’t just sit on a shelf.

The next step will be to for Bullock to appoint members of 11 “key industry networks” to talk with more people around the state and come up with proposals and timelines on implementing the plan, Simkins said.

Some of the proposals will require legislative action, while others can be accomplished with existing resources, Bullock said

An annual report will be released each year to show the progress made and to ensure transparency, he said.

To boost the plan, Bullock issued an executive order directing all state agencies to assist in its implementation.

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