$250,000 DOL Grant to Help Montana's Economy, Which is Doing Fine

The U.S. Labor Department announced yesterday that it is giving a $250,000 grant to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's Workforce Services Division to help the state shift its economy to high-growth industries that offer better work opportunities to state residents. The timing is odd because Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is proudly pointing to a Feb. 8 report on Montana's strong economy and low unemployment rate by the respected magazine The Economist, which said the state "is prospering on the back of booms in mining and farming, as well as steady growth in tourism." The state's economy is expected to grow by 4.1 percent this year, its fifth consecutive year of growth above 4 percent, according to a University of Montana expert quoted in the magazine's article (www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10650727).

The money is a Regional Innovation Grant; DOL said it will help Montana develop strategic plans that move the regional economy from a declining base in timber to high-growth industries. "With the nature of the area's economy changing, western Montana is ready to focus on new ways to advance the region's economy," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Douglas F. Small. Regional Innovation Grants are drawn from National Emergency Grant funds to assist state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards.

The Economist article contrasts economic conditions in Michigan, Florida, and California with those in states in a belt stretching from Texas up to Montana, which are doing relatively well because of booming exports and high commodity prices.

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