Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shipments mean jobs

Posted on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Kids across America love Halloween; they get to adorn wild costumes and wander house to house collecting candy into the late evening hours, for no particular reason. But in truth, this is a mutually beneficial night, allowing parents to reconnect with neighborhood kids and marvel at the wild costumes for the small price of a few chocolate bars.

Montana has discovered its own Halloween recently. The opportunity is a mutually beneficial project in which a variety of companies will help update our scenic state highways using local labor for the right to ship equipment to Canada. The Kearl transportation project is unfortunately being threatened by a masked hooligan though—politically motivated international groups indifferent to the plight of Montanans who have attempted to hijack the issue for their own gain.

The Kearl shipments along Highway 12 are an important boon to local employment, and particularly critical to contracting jobs. I know, because my own members in the Montana Contractors’ Association have desperately needed contracts on the line—employment opportunities that will support local workers and keep families afloat in tough times.

New road surface repairs, new and improved turnouts, modified overhead signs and bond payments on new repairs are all critical infrastructure investments in our rural roads in Montana. By generating an estimated $68 million in economic benefit for Montana, these shipments will ensure that local jobs are created today, and growth is sustained for the future.

However, outside groups have drowned out this reality in their efforts to shut down these shipments. The Natural Resources Defense Council has generated the majority of public comments in opposition to the project, taking our local jobs and investment hostage to their global agenda. Instead of asking locals about their economic conditions and the prospects of new contracting opportunities that mean jobs and growth, outside interferers have used mass e-mails to mobilize folks who don’t care about Montana. This project is about local jobs and local growth for Montana, and should not be held hostage to political agendas.

Furthermore, these shipments have been planned with safety and the environment as the foremost concern. The Kearl project has been working with state authorities in Montana and Idaho for over two years, including state police and through environmental assessments, to ensure that the shipments are done in the safest and most environmentally conscious way. Highway 12 will remain the safe and scenic route we know it to be, but will be improved for the future through these infrastructure investments.

During this economic downturn, Montana needs to focus on developing locally for future growth. By blocking the permits for this project, our state risks creating a terrible precedent for projects down the road.

Don’t be fooled by clever disguises this Halloween season. The Kearl project is mutually beneficial for the state and the companies desiring passage. In fact, by cultivating this opportunity, Montana could actually chase off the real boogeyman of late—the recession.

Cary Hegreberg

Executive Director

Montana Contractors’ Association

Helena

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