For the first time in 18 years, the technology industry will factor prominently in a triennial economic summit planned by Sen. Max Baucus.
During a visit to Bozeman on Tuesday, the senator said Oracle president and chief financial officer Safra Catz will be one of the headliners at his Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte this September.
“(Catz) is high on RightNow; she’s high on Bozeman; she’s high on Montana; and they’re going to provide many more jobs at Oracle,” Baucus said.
Oracle’s acquisition of RightNow Technologies in February 2011 for roughly $1.5 billion spurred Baucus to shine some of the economic summit’s spotlight on the technology industry.
“New technology is critical because we’re always moving forward,” the Democrat said. “You can’t move back. You can never move back. You can only move forward.”
At a roundtable discussion with Bozeman businesspeople Tuesday, Baucus said the city has “always been an area where technology’s been very important.”
The number of representatives from the biotechnology, software and photonics industries sitting around the senator reflected that sentiment.
“There’s so much potential here. It’s just a matter of scaling it up,” Rob Irizarry told Baucus after the meeting. Irizarry, a former RightNow employee, co-founded StartupBozeman, a group working to bolster the local entrepreneurial community.
Bozeman’s roundtable also covered issues of transportation, broadband connectivity and access to investment money.
Transportation in particular seemed to have caught Baucus’ ear. He asked outdoor equipment manufacturer Hyalite Equipment, pet products manufacturer West Paw Design and Altos Photonics to follow up with him on the topic after their representatives explained the difficulty in shipping their products around the country.
“To put it in perspective, it’s cheaper to ship a product out of China to Rotterdam than it is from Bozeman to a port in the United States,” said Spencer Williams, president of West Paw Design. His company warehouses products in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it sells in Europe.
Baucus said the feedback he’s gotten from the Montana businesses has been positive. He’s looking forward to the Butte summit and working to solve some of the issues brought up as he tours the state in advance of the September event.
The summit will also focus on energy development in both oil and gas and renewable energy.
September’s summit will be the sixth Baucus has held; the senator organizes one every three years. Baucus is announcing the summit’s keynote speakers as he tours the state. He has stops in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Butte this week.
“We’re a can-do state,” Baucus said. “We don’t bellyache and moan and complain, we figure out how to get something done.”
Jason Bacaj may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2635.