Eastern Montana Development Forum
Thursday, September 12, 2012
Miles City, Montana
Hi everybody! Max Baucus here.
I'm sorry I can't be there with you in person.
I'd like to thank Miles Community College President Stefani Hicswa MSU-Northern Chancellor Jim Limbaugh and Fort Peck Community College President Doctor Florence Garcia for all of your hard work.
Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity - not a threat."
The oil and gas boom in the Bakken is changing life as we know it across eastern Montana.
This forum is designed to look for the opportunities that have come with the changes.
Back in January, I issued a "Call to Action in the Bakken."
It started with a letter to the White House.
I told the President what's happening in the Bakken.
And I told him we need to ramp up federal resources to get our communities what they need.
I told him, 'We need all hands on deck to boost energy jobs in Montana.'
Oil and gas development in Montana is of national interest.
We're providing the energy and jobs at a time when our nation needs us most.
Local governments shouldn't be shouldering the burdens of that development alone.
That's why I'm pressing every relevant federal agency to take a hard look at how they can pitch in.
At the local level, we set up a one-stop-shop to help folks cut through the red tape and find the right resources to match their needs.
We asked economic development expert, Tony Preite with MSU-Northern to head up this effort.
I'd like to send a special thank you to Tony and Liz Ching from my staff.
They have logged thousands of miles across Eastern Montana holding listening sessions and meetings to find solutions to the challenges created by the energy boom.
Another cornerstone of my "Call to Action in the Bakken" is making sure Montanans get the training they need to land good-paying energy jobs.
Studies show there are around 18,000 open jobs in the Bakken.
Right now, many energy companies operating in Montana hire workers trained out-of-state.
I know we can do better.
So, back in May, we launched the Eastern Montana Energy Workforce Development Initiative.
The idea is simple.
First: Train Montana workers to land energy jobs.
Second: connect energy companies with our Montana-trained workers.
Third: follow through to make sure Montanans get jobs, and energy companies get workers trained for their needs.
As you heard this morning - we're moving full steam ahead thanks to the partnership of the Montana University System, eastern Montana community colleges and Montana tribal colleges.
I challenge every energy company in the room. Hire as many Montana-trained workers as possible.
My goal is to make sure as many of those 18,000 jobs as possible are filled with Montanans trained right here in the state.
Housing is another cornerstone of our Call to Action in the Bakken.
I'd like to thank Rick Garcia, the top dog in the region from Housing and Urban Development, who is here from Denver.
We hear stories every day of families living in cars and folks having to turn down teaching or law enforcement jobs because there is a lack of affordable housing.
Whether you're a contractor, city planner, engineer or work for a local housing authority -- I encourage you to work with Rick and his team on solutions.
Working together does produce results.
Our Call to Action in the Bakken is evidence of that.
Since I've sounded the alarm we've:
• Brought $1 million in grants and $3 million in loans to rebuild Culbertson's wastewater treatment facility.
• Made clean drinking water available in the western Bakken by connecting Poplar's water treatment plant.
• Introduced a bill in Congress to speed up clean drinking water projects across eastern Montana in communities affected by the energy boom; and
• We've helped local law enforcement identify federal grant programs to help them handle increased calls.
Right now we're making good progress on:
• A regional planning grant that will add more tools for local communities;
• Expanding cell service in eastern Montana;
• Working with the Montana Department of Transportation to address traffic; and
• Pressing Amtrak to increase capacity for passengers working in the Bakken
There's much more work ahead and I'm going to keep doing my part.
I look forward to hearing your ideas from this conference -- feel free to drop me a line or call anytime.
Thanks for taking the time to join this conversation.