After a year off due to COVID restrictions, Montana will once again host the annual Pacific Northwest Economic Region Summit August 15 through 19 at Big Sky.

KGVO spoke with the president of the organization, state legislator Mike Cuffe who was excited to present the summit that was cancelled in 2020.

The U.S. Canada border has been opened for recreational travel into Canada, however, only essential travel is allowed from Canada into the U.S.

“Last year we had a really big bang up show planed at Big Sky,” said Cuffe. “We had to call that one off because of COVID-19. This year, we said we're doing a combined hybrid, they call it, so some of it is virtual. We'll have a number of folks. I think we have probably 65 to 70 virtual folks signed up right now. Our total registration, I think is in the neighborhood of 275, with a lot more coming in as we get on site.”

Cuffe detailed some of the presenters at the summit.

“We have three former ambassadors include, including Kelly Craft, who was the Ambassador to Canada and helped work USMCA, the trilateral trade agreement, into existence,” he said. “And then President Donald Trump moved her from Canada to New York to be ambassador to the United Nations when Nikki Haley went on to other things.”

Cuffe said there will be a real emphasis on wildfires in both Canada and the western U.S.

“Can we have the number one firefighting officer, Bill Avey, a Montana man,” he said. “He's a top firefighting officer in the US Forest Service. He will be giving us an address along with Jennifer Draughon, who is president of Neptune Aviation right here in Missoula. They're the biggest contractor with the Forest Service, flying close to a dozen of the big slurry bombers.”

Cuffe said the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline was devastating to Montana, but even more so to the province of Alberta, Canada.

“We have worked that Keystone pipeline, and it's like the border crossing issue,” he said. “There just seems to be no point to it to many of us, and there's absolutely no point economically. That's what this group is really about. Economically it's devastating to the province of Alberta, and it's not good for the economies even in Montana and North Dakota but to a much smaller scale. Alberta is landlocked, and they have a lot of oil but they cannot get it to market. The Keystone Pipeline. That's a terrible story.”

Governor Greg Gianforte, Senator Jon Tester, Representative Matt Rosendale, and many other political and business leaders will speak at the event.

(Senator Cuffe is the man on the far left of the photo)

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