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Gianforte touts ‘Come Home to Montana’ campaign following Billings roundtable

September 7, 2016 GMT

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte announced in Billings Tuesday an effort to bring home Montanans who work out of state.

Gianforte was visiting Billings for a roundtable discussion at Rocky Mountain College with area business and civic leaders.

The effort includes running a radio advertisement with the return-home message in Denver and Seattle.

“Unfortunately, today we don’t have enough jobs for our young people and our kids have become our most precious export,” Gianforte said.

He said the ad coincides with his plan to increase telecommuting in the state. He also advocates mailing “invitations” home to the thousands of people who relocated out of state after graduating from Montana colleges. The back of the flier provides suggestions on how to speak to an employer about the prospect of working from Montana.

The roundtable discussion included marketing and public relations professionals and focused on why young people leave Billings and what draws them back.

Jennifer Mercer, Billings Depot executive director, said a vibrant city center is imperative to attracting young people. She advocated for increased funding for infrastructure in the downtown area.

“Good isn’t good enough anymore,” Mercer said. “We have to be great. We want to be a place where kids and grandkids want to come back to.”

In addition to advertising the quality of life and geographic wealth of Montana and pushing for more telecommuting jobs, Gianforte said he would eliminate barriers for entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the state.

“We need to look at all the regulations on the books and get rid of the ones that seem excessive,” he said.

Gianforte said he would also encourage economic growth through a “culture of customer service” in state government and appoint department heads based on field experience rather than politics.

He said Montana needs more jobs in the private sector and a wider base of employers. He prefers to foster in-state startups instead of courting large “white knight” companies that promise hundreds of jobs but require lucrative incentive packages to relocate to Montana.

“I personally am not a fan of big incentive packages because you have to take money from other Montanans to give it to them,” Gianforte said.

Josh Wirth, a Buffalo, Wyo. native, lived in larger metropolitan areas including Los Angeles before moving to Billings where he works as the creative director for Kinetic Agency.

Wirth said $300,000 doesn’t go far in the Los Angeles real estate market, but Billings is much more affordable. Cheap housing and the urban amenities found in Billings drew him to the area.

“It was never in the cards for me to stay somewhere else, but I had to have a job to come back,” he said.