ECONOMIC CONFERENCE — From the left, Jane Holzer, Program Director for the Economic Information Conference on Thursday, chats with presenter, Julia Haggerty before the conference started. I-O Photo by Buck Traxler
By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
Over 60 interested spectators were at the CHS Auditorium on Thursday for an Economic Information Conference.
The program was organized by the Montana Salinity Control Association (MSCA) and the Pondera County Conservation District (PCCD).
Paul Kronebusch of the PCCD gave a short welcome noting, “This conference is to learn more about the economic factors that drive our economy.”
Jane Holzer of the MSCA was the program director and introduced the speakers.
The line-up for the evening included Mark and Julia Haggerty of Headwater Economics who spoke on Understanding the Montana Economy and Opportunities in Energy Development in Rural Areas.
Dale Manchester from the BLM talked extensively on Innovative Oil Well Construction, Horizontal Drilling and Fracturing.
Daryl James touched on the MATL line construction process and Shelby Mayor Larry Bonderud, representing their Port Authority, talked about Regional Economic Impacts.
Conrad Mayor Wendy Judisch welcomed everyone to our city. She noted that the Ag industry will continue to play a major impact to our area, but “We welcome oil and gas development to our area, it’s exciting times.”
Mark Haggerty said that the economy is growing but not everywhere.
He noted that voters rank farming/ranching as the industry of importance to the state with small business next. Tourism has increased while medical is dropping.
The economy is growing steadily and Montana is attracting people and creating business faster than the U.S. economy.
He noted that “protected federal lands are an important driver of growth.”
Natural amenities attract business and education is central to business retention and formation, he said.
Julia Haggerty spoke on opportunities in energy development in rural areas, renewable energy and touched on incentives and assessments.
James, in talking about the MATL (Montana-Alberta Tie Line) told the audience, “Wind resource in Montana is tremendous and the need for power has increased by 33 percent since 1998.
He asked the question, “What’s on the horizon?” In giving his answer, James said, “It depends on the market. There is great market potential in California and we’re looking at options.”
For more information on MATL and wind projects, check out www.enbridge.com .
Manchester, from the BLM, explained how ‘fracturing’ and horizontal drilling worked and the ‘fracking’ process.
He noted that in Pondera County 28 wells have been drilled from 2008 to 2012. “Technology has come a long way,” he said.
Mayor Bonderud wrapped up the conference. He said, “People say we’re in the middle of nowhere. We like to say, ‘We’re right where we want to be.’ ”
The mayor noted that the City of Shelby and Toole County have formed an economic development team and have also hooked up with KLJ engineers.
He also touched on all their Port Authority does and wind development in Toole County.
The Conference was also co-sponsored by the Marias River Watershed, North Central Resource Conservation and Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Conservation Districts of Cascade, Glacier, Liberty, Teton and Toole counties.