FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where are the "Montana Friendly" Businesses?

by PAT WILLIAMS

Through the years we have heard a lot of misplaced complaining that Montana isn’t “business friendly.” It is now dawning on us that we need more businesses that are “Montana friendly.”

For 60 years we have heard the drumbeat about Montana’s so-called attitude. Year-after-year, usually just prior to the convening of our state’s legislature, the rumble starts: Montana is not a good place to do business, Montana is not business-friendly.

Those chants began in the 1950s following the loosening of Anaconda Mining Company’s strangle hold on the state’s politics, economy and media. A new strategy of persuasion, whining actually, was developed by industry; one designed to convince Montana’s various governmental levels to provide significant preferences to businesses, most notably the largest corporations. For half a century, the largess has flowed: public giveaways of our land, water, access, and always, always tax breaks for the big boys.

Perhaps a series of events have reversed or at least slowed those trends. Our largest businesses, our wealthiest landowners have been caught at what they obviously believe is the privilege of corporate control. Big business first overplayed its hand beginning in the late 1990s when the Montana Power Company convinced our state’s Governor Marc Racicot and the Republican-led legislature to deregulate the electricity business. The results: soaring electric rates, unemployment, state red ink, millions of dollars in lost pensions and, for a few insider corporate executives, windfall incomes-all combined to get the attention of Montanans.

On the heels of that debacle came the public’s bailout of runaway mining companies. Montana, in only the past few years, has covered 34 million dollars in mining company bond forfeitures and settlement costs for land reclamation and water treatment. Our state legislature, which adjourned in April of this year, ordered the appropriation of an additional 1.2 million dollars in each of the next 19 years for water treatment at the abandoned mine site of Zortman near the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Reservations.

Not very “Montana friendly” is it.

Another milestone in business’s most recent bad attitude toward our state involves the critically important issue of our access to our own rivers. Montana’s renowned Ruby River is the latest to be claimed by corporate executives. It is advertised by one company, Crane Meadow Lodge, as a private river. Tragically they and others are turning that myth into reality with virtually 100 percent of the Ruby’s banks in conservation easements owned by wealthy non-Montanans. At least one large corporation, The James M. Cox, Jr. Foundation, has refused to contribute to The University of Montana until our state becomes “more appreciative of their presence in Montana.”

And then, of course, we have the effort of one large, out-of-state owned business, The Resort at Paws Up, to purloin our state’s best know moniker “The Last Best Place.” Although that business now denies any attempt to trademark and thus own our well-known phrase, it nonetheless has filed 8 trademark applications for exclusive use of our words; with the first three applications filed Aug. 13, 2001.

Throughout the 114 years of our existence as a state, we Montanans have provided our muscle, media, water and wealth to assist the development of corporations. We Montanans have striven to be business friendly. Is it asking too much for business to return the favor?

PAT WILLIAMS served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at The University of Montana where he also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West.

Pat Williams served 18 years as Montana’s Congressman. He now lives in Missoula where he teaches at the University of Montana.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious madness in Ulster
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail