The following excerpt From the Montana Contractors Association newsletter was forwarded to the Corrector by one of our Montana Legislators. We think Mr. Hegreberg hits the nail on the head. Why are we standing by and allowing this to happen while jobs vanish?
North Dakota must think we're nuts
By Cary Hegreberg, Executive Director, Montana Contractors' Association
An excerpt from the May, 2012 Newsletter
North Dakotans must consider us Montanans to be a pretty humorous and goofy bunch of folks. They listen to us lament with envy the economic prosperity our neighbor to the east is enjoying as a result of the Bakken oil boom. Business leaders, elected officials and everyday Montanans routinely reflect out loud how "lucky" North Dakota is to have all that oil wealth.
Ironically, from the turn of the last century to the late 1990s, North Dakotans were envious of Montana's vast forest lands and the magnificent, fully integrated wood products industry that flourished here. We had thousands of people working in sawmills, plywood and particle board manufacturing plants, and working as loggers, or truckers, not to mention the myriad of related businesses that sprung up to serve the needs of the wood products industry and its workers.
North Dakotans watched dumbfounded as dozens of Montana sawmills and manufacturing plants closed, leaving behind thousands of unemployed workers and devastated communities, all victims of an insatiable environmental movement. Like many Americans, North Dakotans now drive through Montana witnessing mile after mile of dead, standing trees, wondering how we Montanans let this happen.
Similarly, North Dakota watched us decide at the ballot box to ignore the rich gold deposits known to exist in various locations throughout Montana. North Dakotans must have wondered why Montanans couldn't come up with a compromise to capture the economic opportunity of this gold resource while protecting the environment at the same time. At $1600-$1800 per ounce, imagine the revenues Montana could be enjoying today.
North Dakotans, with their relatively meager deposits of low-value, high-sulfur lignite coal, have undoubtedly wondered for decades why the state with the largest deposits of high value, low-sulfur coal in the U.S., allowed Wyoming to dominate coal markets, dwarfing Montana's production levels. We can only speculate on how North Dakota would have dealt with the world class coal reserves Montana has.
North Dakota was not blessed with millions of acres of forest land. North Dakota does not have huge deposits of gold tucked away in the hills. North Dakota does not have hundreds of millions of tons of coal that is in high demand throughout the world. They do have oil, however, and they must find it amazingly ludicrous to hear us Montanans expressing envy at their good fortune.
To be sure, environmental activists are still hammering away at what's left of Montana's timber industry. They are opposing any expansion or extension of the scant few gold mines here that escaped the regulatory pummeling. Nary a day goes by that some rag tag group is rallying to oppose coal trains, alleging all manner of atrocities in order to set the stage for a wholesale attack on coal companies planning to expand production in Montana.
And, it is a given that the promising new opportunities for oil and natural gas development in Montana will be met with the same onslaught of opposition our other resource industries have largely succumbed to.
Will we screw up our oil opportunity too? Will our North Dakota neighbors build new schools, new highways and bridges, and reinvigorate their communities as they watch us Montanans squander yet another chance to convert a natural resource into economic prosperity?
The MCA led the effort in sponsoring the highly successful Montana Energy 2012 conference and tradeshow in Billings Apr. 3-4 as our way to push Montana into a new era of optimism for the future. We don't need to be envious of North Dakota-we need to emulate their attitude to capitalize on resources and create opportunities for our people.
The huge turnout, fascinating presentations, and positive reviews of the energy conference prove that Montana is ready to embrace energy development as The Next Big Thing to reignite our economy. Thanks to a visionary Board of Directors, a supportive membership, and a dedicated staff of professionals, the Montana Contractors' Association stands ready to help lead the way.