Tax climate good for business in Big Sky Country: Montana governor

When folks think about Montana, they envision breathtaking mountain peaks, unspoiled nature, blue-ribbon trout fishing, wide-open spaces and a never-ending big sky. What they often overlook, though, is our favorable business climate, our highly educated workforce and a state government that is effective and responsive to the needs of residents and businesses alike.

While an amazing quality of life may be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about Montana, when you combine that with all of the business resources that are readily available, our state is clearly in a league of its own.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
Source: Governors Office | Montana
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

Montana has an exceedingly favorable business tax climate. We're consistently ranked among the top 10 business tax climates in the nation and we're one of only five states with no sales tax. But we are not resting on our laurels; we continue to build on this foundation.

During my first year in office, I worked with the legislature to give every Montana business a tax cut, and we completely eliminated the business-equipment tax for two-thirds of Montana businesses.

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A competitive business tax climate means little if you can't find workers with the skills necessary to do the jobs that are most in demand today. Fortunately, here in Montana, we also have a well-educated and highly trained workforce.

However, with an ever-changing global economy, we recognize that we must continue to adapt our educational and workforce development strategies in order to keep pace. That's why we recently made historic investments in our public education system, as well as freezing tuition at Montana state colleges and universities.

Perhaps most importantly, though, we're facilitating innovative partnerships between the private sector and our colleges to develop cutting-edge curricula, ensuring that students are gaining the skills that will allow them to fill the jobs that are most in demand when they graduate.

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Finally, Montana has one of the most effective and responsive state governments in the nation, and we are constantly working to improve upon that. We are the only state that was able to fix our public employee pension fund without raising taxes. And we did it while maintaining a budget (surplus) that is the envy of many other states. In fact, Montana was one of only a few states to maintain a budget surplus through the recession.

"Montana has one of the most effective and responsive state governments in the nation, and we are constantly working to improve upon that."

And we recently launched the Main Street Montana Project to develop, for the first time, a business plan for the state. This private- sector-driven plan will build on our state's strengths, while tackling challenges that have historically slowed business growth. An important component of this plan is reviewing state and local government and eliminating redundant regulations, so entrepreneurs can spend more time running their business and less time navigating bureaucracy.

There is a lot going for businesses in Montana. As I talk to business leaders throughout the nation who are looking at the possibility of setting up shop here, I ask them, "Why wouldn't you want to work where most people want to vacation?" And when I tell them about our tax climate, workforce and responsive government, they're sold on the benefits of doing business in Big Sky Country.

—By Montana Gov.Steve Bullock