Steve Bullock

Gov. Steve Bullock addresses attendees at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region conference at the Big Sky Resort on Monday. Members of the organization include five U.S. states, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and four Canadian provinces.

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BIG SKY — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock touted the state’s record on a range of issues like tourism and bipartisanship during a speech at an economics conference here on Monday.

Bullock spoke to more than 500 government officials and industry representatives from the U.S. and Canada during the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region’s annual summit. It is the organization’s 25th annual meeting but the first hosted by Montana.

“It’s about time that you did come to my state,” Bullock said, earning a chuckle from the crowd.

Bullock took a jab at partisanship in Washington, D.C., saying that it has caused lawmakers to lose sight of the economic and social well-being of the public. But back in Montana, Bullock said, things are different; bipartisanship resulted in the expansion of Medicaid, campaign finance reform, a major water compact, and a plan to protect sage grouse.

After describing the Montana economy as complex, and influenced by factors beyond the state’s border, Bullock told the crowd about his administration’s business plan titled the “Main Street Montana Project.”

As evidence of its success, Bullock said Montana was ranked as the No. 1 state for entrepreneurs; best in the nation for keeping higher education affordable; recognized as a leader in transparency in government spending; experiencing high personal income growth, with low unemployment rates; and near record job growth in the last year.

After Bullock’s 27-minute speech, Republican state Rep. Mike Cuffe of Eureka said he didn’t have much to critique.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be critical of what he said. He covered a lot of ground,” said Cuffe, who lives just a few miles south of Montana’s border with Canada.

Asked about the governor’s record on marketing Montana’s tourism, a major economic driver for southwest Montana, Cuffe singled out Meg O’Leary, the director of Montana Department of Commerce, for praise.

“One of the best things that the governor has done is surrounded himself with good people,” he said.

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.


Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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