Tester says Pell Grants, biomass are key to Montana’s growth

Montana Kaimin

by Heidi Groover

During a visit to The University of Montana campus Wednesday, Sen. Jon Tester emphasized Pell Grants as the key to making education affordable for students at Montana's two and four-year schools and universities.

Maintaining affordable education is crucial for the state's economy, Tester said.
"There [are] two things that I think move this economy forward over the long haul.

One is physical infrastructure … and the other is human infrastructure," Tester said during an interview with the Montana Kaimin. "The mind is a great thing. We've got to make sure we train it."

Even in a tough economic climate, Montanans with tenacity and a certificate or degree can find work in fields across the state, Tester said.

"There are a lot of jobs out there, but you've got to be trained in the right field to do it," he said, citing health care and craftsmanship, despite the housing market drop.

In the spirit of the workshop he held at UM Wednesday, Tester said hard work is needed to fuel new ideas in the state. To implement their ideas, students and recent graduates should "talk to everybody [they] can talk to, and then [they] can't get discouraged."

Tester called this an "exciting time for small business people" and said the economy is beginning to bounce back and offer Montanans opportunities.

UM College Republicans President Austin James, a junior studying political science and economics, said he doesn't think Tester is doing enough to protect jobs in the state.

"Senator Tester needs to go back to Washington and work for Montana jobs like natural resources and agriculture," James said. "Montana's unemployment shouldn't be high because we have a plethora of resources jobs."

Mills across Montana need continued access to dependable timber, and new opportunities in biomass energy production only strengthen the need for jobs in the logging industry, Tester said, citing the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act he is leading in Congress.

Agriculture remains one of the state's other crucial industries, and even as farmers struggle across the country, Montanans have an advantage, Tester said.

"We have something we can market and it's called ‘Montana,'" he said. "When we're adding value to our raw products and selling them with the ‘Montana' sticker on them. I think it makes it easier to market that product."

Increased value means increased jobs, Tester said, "and that's what we're really talking about — opportunities for people to work."