Liberated from the demands and time constraints of campaigning, Sen. Max Baucus says he feels reinvigorated as he closes out the final term of his nearly 40-year congressional career.
Repeating a line he has used frequently since announcing his retirement from the U.S. Senate two weeks ago, the Democrat told a group of Flathead business leaders and government officials on May 2: “I’m not going out to pasture.”
“I’m more energized than ever, really, to work for the remaining year and a half on all the things I’d like to get done in Montana,” Baucus said at a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel. “Now that I’m not campaigning I have a lot more time to work on a lot of these issues.”
Earlier in the day at a separate chamber event, Baucus laid out his priorities for his remaining 20 months in office. Speaking to assembled business and community leaders, the senator highlighted his plans for the sixth Montana Economic Development Summit on Sept. 16-17 at the Montana Tech campus in Butte.
Baucus organizes the summits every three years, bringing business representatives – often from national and global powerhouses – to Montana to address economic issues through panels, keynote speakers and networking. They serve as an opportunity for Montana businessmen and women to interact and learn from some of the biggest names in a variety of industries.
This year’s summit it will be the last before Baucus retires at the end of 2014 after 36 years in the Senate. The senator surprised many people with his April 23 announcement that he would not be running for a seventh term.
In addition to the economic summit, Baucus listed other foremost Montana priorities for the remainder of his term, including continuing his push for legislation to permanently protect the North Fork Flathead River watershed from industrial development, a Highway Bill and a Farm Bill.
Past summit participants have included Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, high-ranking U.S. officials and other notable figures. This years’ event continues that tradition with headliners such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2012.
Other headliners for the September economic Summit are ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance, Oracle President and CFO Safra Catz and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney.
At his Kalispell stop, Baucus unveiled a fifth headliner: Elon Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors, while founding and serving as CEO of SpaceX, a company that builds rockets and spacecraft. Forbes named Musk in its list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.”
The summit is expected to attract 2,500-3,000 attendees and around 150 different companies from across the country. Ambassadors from foreign countries also attend. Baucus says there are three rules at the summits: no idea or subject is off the table, no politics are allowed and the private sector should drive the solutions.
At the last summit in 2010, Baucus said General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt met the owner of SeaCast manufacturing in Butte, which resulted in a partnership that has helped SeaCast grow significantly. Baucus’ office cites other examples of Montana companies securing fruitful partnerships and venture capital infusions as a result of the summits. The senator is “excited” about the state’s economic outlook.
“I think Montana is on the cusp of developing into a stronger economic state than we’ve had in the past,” he said.
More information on the economic summit will be forthcoming atwww.montanajobssummit.com.