December 13, 2023
OP-ED: Columbia River Settlement Threatens Montana's Economic Stability
By: Todd O’Hair, President & CEO, Montana Chamber of Commerce
At the Montana Chamber of Commerce, we are deeply concerned by recent developments in federal energy policies that threaten our state's power supply and economic vitality. Our concerns are centered around the consequences of secret commitments recently made by the U.S. government through a closed-door negotiation over the Columbia River hydropower system. Behind those closed doors, decisions with far-reaching consequences were made— a process that will increase electricity costs for the nearly 150,000 homes and businesses in western Montana who rely on those federal hydroelectric dams and has the potential to jeopardize the reliability of our electrical grid.
The decisions made today on the future viability of those hydro projects will have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of these Montanans. Alarmingly, the State of Montana and its business and resident public power ratepayers, who will bear the brunt of these decisions, were sidelined in what should have been an inclusive process. The gravity of this responsibility cannot be overstated and we, as the Montana Chamber of Commerce, refuse to turn a blind eye to the potential disenfranchisement of our communities. A sustainable energy future requires the input and collaboration of all stakeholders, and we urge our elected officials to ensure that the voices of Montana businesses and communities are heard.

As a tough-on-crime prosecutor, Cory Swanson, protected the community he serves. And as Deputy Attorney General, Swanson was the lead counsel in some of the biggest cases affecting Montana.
Cory Swanson is a fourth generation Montanan who grew up on the Hi-Line before graduating from high school in Manhattan, Montana. He comes from a large family with roots in the military, the ministry and blue-collar work.

Swanson studied farm and ranch management at Montana State University in Bozeman before transferring to Carroll College in Helena, graduating with distinction in 2000. Swanson graduated from the University of Montana School of Law with honors in 2004.

During these school years, Swanson became an accomplished public speaker. He was a leader of the 1999 Carroll College National Champion Debate Team and won the 2000 award for the most speech victories of all college competitors in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Swanson joined the Montana Army National Guard in June 1997 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in August 1998. Swanson had three deployments to the Middle East with the Montana National Guard’s 1-163rd Mechanized Infantry / Combined Arms Battalion. As an Army officer, he commanded the 1-163 Combined Arms Battalion twice, including on its overseas deployment for Operation Spartan Shield to the Middle East in 2022. He is currently a Colonel nearing retirement from the Montana Army National Guard. He has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.

After his first deployment, Swanson joined and then became partner in a law firm in Helena, Montana. His practice focused on government affairs, federal and state environmental litigation, election law, land use, water and administrative law. He worked actively to oppose environmental closures to public lands and to protect private property rights.

In January 2013, Swanson was hired as a Deputy Attorney General in the Montana Department of Justice for Attorney General Tim Fox. In that role, he was the lead in-house counsel and a lead trial counsel for the Montana v. Wyoming water case before a Special Master of the United States Supreme Court, which was the longest Montana DOJ trial in recent years.

In November 2014, Swanson was elected the Broadwater County Attorney. His office prosecutes approximately 50 felonies and 300 misdemeanors per year, everything from speeding tickets to homicides. He was re-elected without opposition in 2018 and 2022. Swanson is the Vice President of the Montana County Attorneys Association.

Cory married Julie Platisha of Manhattan, Montana in July 2007. He and Julie reside in Townsend with their son Caleb and daughter Claire. He helps coach youth sports, and the family is active in 4-H and their church. Julie is a Speech Language Pathologist and has a private practice providing speech therapy to children in the Townsend-Toston-White Sulphur Springs area.

Learn more about Cory Swanson at and click the link on the website to follow his campaign on Facebook. 
HAPPENING TOMORROW, Thursday, December 14 at 9:00 a.m.
Montana Department of Revenue Upcoming Business Tax Webinar:

Withholiding Tax Update for Tax Year 2024

In this webinar, we will discuss the changes to the Montana Form MW-4 and wage withholding tax tables. We will also discuss the changes to Montana withholding passed by the 2023 Montana Legislature, including the increase to the late-filing penalty for Forms W-2 and the new de minimis filing requirement for nonresident employees.

To register, click here.
The Montana Chamber Foundation's The Prospects 2024
The excitement is palpable as The Montana Chamber Foundation's fourth annual The Prospects 2024 competition has opened to Montana middle school and high school students. Submissions have been pouring in since last week, showcasing the enthusiasm and talent of our state's young minds.

Over the years, The Prospects has seen remarkable growth, becoming a prominent platform for students to showcase their innovative projects. As we embark on the 2024 edition, we extend a warm invitation to potential judges who can contribute to the success of this competition. In response to valuable feedback from teachers, students, and past judges, we have implemented improvements to ensure an even more engaging experience.

This year, we have expanded the competition with four distinct categories for 6th-8th grade and 9th-12th grade participants. Visit our Prospects webpage here for a comprehensive list of categories and detailed information about the competition.

Virtual judging is set to commence on March 25th, continuing through April 19th. The virtual awards show is scheduled for April 25th. Additional in-person activities hosted by the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University take place from May 19th to 21st, offering students the unique opportunity to have their submissions evaluated by esteemed business leaders from across the state.

As a testament to our commitment to fostering talent, The Prospects 2024 boasts an impressive array of prizes, including $40,000 in unrestricted cash, scholarships to various colleges in the state, and the chance to compete in person for additional unrestricted cash. We are thrilled to witness the incredible ideas and achievements that will undoubtedly emerge from this year's competition.

If you are interested in being a judge or supporting the competition, please contact Tiana Yates- [email protected] .
Thursday, January 11, 2024
9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
State of American Business is just around the corner, and we want to make sure you have an early invitation. 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark will promote the innovation and impact of America’s free enterprise system during the annual event, which draws more than 10,000 people and connects business leaders, policymakers, journalists, and the public from across the country and around the world. 
State of American Business, taking place virtually on January 11th, will celebrate the power of American businesses to serve customers, solve problems and strengthen society.   
You won’t want to miss this special event – reserve your spot now! 
Coming to 9 Cities Across Montana
January 23 - March 13, 2024
8:00 am - 1:00 pm
In an era where people of different political persuasions seemingly can’t even agree that the sun rises in the East, it is easy for some to discount or dismiss the notion that carbon-emitting energy production is going away. Just as it is a matter of faith with others that an emissions-free world is right around the corner. These swift conclusions gloss over the hard questions the coming years will force us to address: What would it actually take to power the largest economy in the world within the emissions targets set by our leaders, and what is the most effective way to carry that out?
For the Bureau of Business & Economic Research, the 49th annual Economic Outlook Seminar they will add a question: What would it mean for Montana? Our colder climate and our large geography have combined to make us one of the most energy-dependent states in the country. We are also a state that mines metals and minerals, and the green energy shopping list for what we could produce is potentially a long one. A dose of reality is what we think the political battles over green energy need, and that’s exactly what the 2024 Economic Outlook Seminars aim to provide.
As always, their economists and industry experts will highlight the latest economic trends for local economies, the state of Montana, and the U.S. We hope you can join us for what certainly looks to be a spirited, informative discussion. The new mobile app allows seminar attendees multiple discussion opportunities with speakers, sponsors, and fellow attendees!

Continuing education credits are available!
Registration is $95 and includes lunch and two printed publications: the Montana Economic Report and a Powerpoint booklet with the presentation slides. Groups of 5 or more may attend for $60.

Made in Montana Trade Show

Fri/Sat, March 8-9, 2024
Discover authentic Made in Montana products at the Made in Montana Tradeshow, located at the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds, 98 West Custer Avenue, Helena, MT.  

The Tradeshow is a unique selling opportunity for Made in Montana companies as it incorporates a “Wholesale” day and a public “Retail” day. 

Friday, March 8, 2024 is reserved for Wholesale Buyers. The Exhibit floor is open for buyers from 9 am to 5 pm. Wholesale buyer preregistration opens in January.

Saturday, March 9, 2024 is open to the public. Shop from 9 am to 5 pm for the latest in Made in Montana food, home, gifts and more. Free admission and free parking.
The Annual Building Codes Education Conference will be held for 5 full days this March 11-15, 2024. The conference will include electrical courses as well as courses addressing structural, energy, fire, solar, mechanical, cannabis, building design, and other topics related to the built environment.

Registration will open January 8, 2024 and close March 3, 2024.

All courses offer self-reporting continuing education credits. For more information, please contact Traci Collett at [email protected] or (406) 841-2016.
FAST Enterprises Partners with Montana Motor Vehicle Division to Improve Customer Experience
On November 13th, the Montana Motor Vehicle Division launched a new driver services system.

The new Credentialing and Registration System (CARS) is part of a multi-phase, multi-year effort to improve customer service and efficiency for Montanans at MVD exam stations across the state.

CARS will increase the number of services that can be completed online and cut transaction time, decreasing both in-office wait times and scheduling backlogs.
The CARS platform is a software solution created in partnership with Montana Chamber member, Fast Enterprises.

For up-to-date information on office hours and appointment availability, customers can go to the online appointment scheduler at
WED/THURS, JANUARY 10-11, 2024
Delta Helena Colonial, Helena, MT
PANEL DISCUSSION - Breaking Ground: Solutions to the Housing Crisis

Last summer Governor Gianforte launched a housing task force to address affordable and attainable housing for Montanans. Between 2010 and 2020, Montana's population grew by 9.6 percent, outpacing the state's housing unit growth of 6.6 percent; private residential construction costs skyrocketed 18.4 percent nationally between March 2021 and March 2022 (U.S. Census Bureau). With recommendations ranging from legislative, to administrative, to best practices, the task force has been lauded nationally for their solution-based bipartisan approach.

Hear from Todd O'Hair, President/CEO - Montana Chamber of Commerce/Housing Task Force Member; Chris Dorrington, Director - Department of Environmental Quality/Housing Task Force Chair; and Paul Green, Representative - House District 41.

Register early as this event sells out every year. Space is limited!

PRICE: $200 / per person (includes reception) or $85 / per person (reception only)

LOCATION CHANGE: Please note this event will be held at the Delta Colonial Helena. A block of rooms has been reserved under the Montana Chamber. Please call 406.443.2100 for reservations; rooms must be reserved no later than December 12th to receive the special rate.
Thank You to Our 2024 Sponsors

Lawmaker Appreciation Reception: Navajo Transitional Energy Company

Platinum: Atlantic Richfield Company; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana; BNSF Railway; Boeing; First Interstate Bank; Montana State Fund; Montana State University; New Horizons Studio; NorthWestern Energy; Stockman Bank; University of Montana; and Valley Bank of Helena

Gold: Allegiance; Charter Communications; FAST Enterprises; Marsh McLennan Agency; and PacificSource Health Plans

Silver: Crowley Fleck; Eide Bailly, LLP; Montana Department of Commerce; Montana's Credit Unions; Montana Secretary of State; University of Washington (WWAMI); and The Washington Companies

Bronze: Blackfoot Communications; MDU Resources; Par Montana; Reach Higher Montana; and Zero to Five

Copper: Montana Bankers Association and UBS

FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Contact Stacye Dorrington, Office & Events Manager at [email protected] | 406.439.4220.
WED-FRI, MARCH 6-8, 2024
AC Hotel Bozeman Downtown | Kimpton Armory Hotel
Bozeman, MT
Lodging $179 / night
Join us for our first-ever BLAZING TRAILS Montana Women in Business Summit, March 6-8, 2024 for two and a half days of educational programming and networking with powerhouse ladies from across the Treasure State at the AC Bozeman Hotel and Kimpton Armory Hotel in downtown Bozeman with proceeds going to fund our childcare policy initiatives in the 2025 Montana Legislature. As part of the Summit, we will join the world in celebrating International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, 2024.

Deep dive into leadership development, financial well-being, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, advocacy, philanthropy, and more and connect with fellow trailblazers, industry leaders, and policymakers. Register today, book your room, and pack your bags. Let's blaze new trails together! 
EARLY BIRD PRICING until Dec 31, 2023
Full Conference Registration: $395 / per person
IWD Power Lunch Ticket: $125 / per person
FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Contact Candace Carr Strauss, VP, Marketing & Communications at [email protected] | 406.640.1331
The simple idea to combine civil engineering and surveying expertise with a commitment to the highest standards of client service led to the creation of Performance Engineering. Our firm has a single-minded focus on ensuring the success of our clients’ projects by creating innovative engineering solutions.

Re-Engineering the Future
Scott Aspenlieder and Craig Dalton founded Performance Engineering in Billings, Montana with a single purpose: to break new ground in engineering excellence. Both were experienced civil engineers, ready to create a firm that would place a priority on relationships, go the extra mile for their clients, and take a collaborative approach to problem solving.

Serving the Mountain West Region
Performance Engineering provides quality civil engineering, surveying and construction management services throughout Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Our expertise extends into each of the following markets: