Where are the "Montana Friendly" Businesses?


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.


November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate
Julian Vigo
A Brief Genealogy of Disappearance and Murder
John R. Hall
Stuck in the Middle With You
Barbara Nimri Aziz
McDonalds at 96th Street
David Rovics
At the Center of Rebellion: the Life and Music of Armand
Weekend Edition
November 20-22, 2015
Jason Hirthler
Paris and the Soldiers of the Caliphate: More War, More Blowback
Sam Husseini
The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine
Mike Whitney
Hillary’s War Whoop
Pepe Escobar
In the Fight Against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners
Ajamu Baraka
The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement
Andrew Levine
The Clintons are Coming, the Clintons are Coming!
Linda Pentz Gunter
Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars
Paul Street
Verging on Plutocracy? Getting Real About the Unelected Dictatorship
Nur Arafeh
Strangling the Palestinian Economy
Patrick Howlett-Martin
The Paris Attacks: a Chronicle Foretold
Vijay Prashad
Rebuilding Syria With BRICS and Mortar
Brian Cloughley
Why US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the Biggest Threat to World Peace