Alliance for Montana’s Future seeks stronger economy through support of higher ed

Imagine keeping Montana’s best and brightest graduates in the state and preparing them to
be the state’s leaders for tomorrow.
It’s no lofty dream. It’s the goal of the Alliance for Montana’s Future, an organization
dedicated to raising public awareness on the link between higher education and economic

By LAURA TODE, IR Staff Writer

The alliance is supported by both private business leaders and administrators
from higher education who made an appearance at the state Capitol Thursday to share
their views with the community.

“A primary goal of Alliance for Montana’s future is to promote partnerships between the
business communities and the higher education institutions,” said Bob Robinson, a former
staffer to Gov. Marc Racicot, who now works as a consultant to various colleges and
universities. “These partnerships will result in funding and support for educational

“More importantly, however, is that jobs for Montana graduates are a natural outcome of
those relationships,” he added.
And local Helena businesses are eager to hire Montana graduates and are looking for
opportunities to continue educating their employees within the state.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which employs some 700 workers across the state, is one such
example of a business looking for education opportunities for their employees, said Senior
Director of Government and Public Relations Tanya Ask.

“Without that, our employees could not maintain the level of education they need to have
in our rapidly changing work environment,” Ask said.
According to the alliance’s executive director, Carol Donaldson, Montana’s higher education
system has a strong connection to the health of the state’s economy, and investing in the
university system and private colleges will pay dividends in growing Montana’s economy.

“It’s a system we need to support and also the public needs to know the role higher
education plays in our state,” she said.
But Donaldson said the alliance isn’t looking to lawmakers alone to shoulder the burden of
funding higher education.
“We need to keep this system strong and active and it’s not just the responsibility of the
public sector but also the private sector to support it,” Donaldson added.

Helena College of Technology Dean Steve Hoyle and Assistant Dean Rick Gray were both in
attendance at the presentation.
“Sometimes people don’t identify us with the university system, but we are a part of the
Montana University System,” Gray said.

Like the state’s four-year institutions, funding for HCT comes almost entirely from the state
and student tuition. Cutbacks in funding for the state’s university system have impacted
Helena’s technical college.
“What affects them, affects us,” Gray added.

The Alliance for Montana’s Future is a state-wide, non-profit organization dedicated to
achieving a stronger economy through support of higher education. It was created six
months ago with a focus on raising public awareness.
The alliance is run by a 13-member steering committee whose goals are represented in 11
regions across the state by individual chairs in each region. In the Helena region, the chair
is Jason Thielman, Chief Deputy of Secretary of State Bob Brown.

The alliance sprang out of the Economic Development Action Group that was established in
the fall of 2000 to provide recommendations to the state for economic development.
According to Bill Lombardi, spokesperson for Sen. Max Baucus, the senator organized the
first economic development summit in 2000, which birthed the Economic Development
Action Group.


On the net
Visit the Alliance for Montana’s Future on the Web at


Reporter Laura Tode can be reached at 447-4081 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.