Charles Burke meets with Montana Jobs Summit participant
Charles Burke meets with Montana Jobs Summit participant

NARA outreach team members Charles Burke, Peter Kolb and Craig Rawlings met with business and policy leaders at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte Montana September 16-17. It was quite an event.

Imagine a city of less than 30,000 citizens hosting a free event that featured the likes of Meg Whitman, HP; Eric Schmidt, Google, Elon Musk, Tesla Motors; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook; Jim McNerney, Boeing and other top business leaders plus ambassadors to the US from Canada, China, Japan and Peru. They were invited by Montana’s Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and they came. Needless to say, the venue at Montana Tech University was pack with visitors throughout the state.

NARA members hosted a vendor booth and participated in panel discussions. A good mix of students, politicians, alternative energy entrepreneurs, landowners and scientists came by the booth to discuss the NARA project and generally expressed positive comments. They were especially interested in the western Montana corridor draft analysis completed through the IDX group. Additional interest came from biofuels startups based in central and eastern Montana like Montana Advanced Biofuels Company who rely on crop residue and oil producing crops for biofuel feedstock. A number of visitors involved with coordinating economic development in Montana and western Washington came by and were familiar with NARA due to previous NARA outreach activities.

The panel discussion “ Growing Fuels: A Look at Advanced Biofuels” was particularly relevant to the NARA project’s goals. The panel hosted:

• Robert Johnson, CEO, Primus Green Energy
• Honorable Jim Greenwood, President and CEO, Biotechnology Industry
• Benjamin Salisbury, Senior Policy Analyst, Energy & Natural Resources Research, FBR capital Markets & Co.
• Richard Hess, Biomass Program Technology Manager, Department of Energy

Most of the discussion between the panel and audience focused on the renewable fuels standards and on providing a market for the beetle kill and burned trees prevalent in Montana’s forests. Jim Greenwood emphasized how tenuous renewable fuel legislation is in Congress. A number of participants brought up NARA’s involvement in Montana as a potential solution for improving the forest health. The audience in the panel discussion was encouraged to visit our booth for more information and many did.

NARA researcher Tim Smith participated as a panelist for “Seeing the market for the trees: wood products in Montana”. This panel focused on the challenges and opportunities of selling wood products generated from Montana’s forest.