Oracle, one of the nation’s largest corporations, looks forward to expanding its “special relationship” with Montana and its universities, its president, Safra Catz, told the Montana Economic Development Summit as the two-day event wrapped up Tuesday at Montana Tech.
Oracle announced in October 2011 it was purchasing RightNow Technologies in Bozeman for $1.5 billion.
“We focus our investment in cloud services in Montana,” Catz said. “Why Montana? It’s really, really simple: employees are our company. There’s been absolutely wonderful work done by Montana Tech and Montana State University (graduates). I will tell you that those people are running our groups.”
Last year, Oracle bought the Bozeman software-development company RightNow Technologies, which employs about 1,100 people.
Oracle’s business in Bozeman handles all the accounting of Oracle’s cloud-related business, which is the company’s fastest growing
sector. Cloud is an online network that allows people to save, share and access digital files from anywhere.
“What’s wonderful about Montana?” Catz asked. “I know I’ve got great people. I don’t have to worry about a civil war breaking out on the borders. I don’t have to worry about working conditions.”
Catz was one of the keynote speakers Tuesday on the final day of the summit, which is organized and sponsored by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. The event attracted some 4,000 people to the Montana Tech campus for two days of panels, speakers and networking on business development in the state.
She said she hopes Oracle’s cloud center in Bozeman will be like the anchor tenant that attracts other high-tech businesses there. A startup company already has moved to Bozeman from California.
“There may be no better working conditions on the planet than September in Montana,” Catz said.
Catz also emphasized the need for the United States to continue to protect intellectual property, citing the copyright provision of the U.S. Constitution.
Jim McNerney, chairman and CEO of Boeing, also used the conference to announce a $35 million expansion of its manufacturing plant in Helena and the hiring of 20-25 new employees.
McNerney also called for federal tax reform, a frequent theme of corporate executives at the summit. Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is leading an effort to overhaul the federal tax code before he retires when his term ends in 2014.
McNerney told the summit that the U.S. corporate tax rate, which at 35 percent, is the highest in the industrialized world by 10 percentage points.
Corporations would like to reduce corporate tax rates, McNerney said, but Boeing, and perhaps others, are willing to give up multiple tax preferences to achieve the goal of lower rates.
“We recognize that everyone will have to give a little bit to get … in the end zone, for tax reform,” he said. “We all admire your senior senator’s strong-minded efforts to make something happen, in the time that he has left in office … and there is little time left. The ranks of bridge-builders in Congress seem to be thinning with every election.”
Overhauling the U.S. tax system could spur higher economic growth and create more higher-wage jobs, he said.
Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Alan Mulally told the crowd he believes the United States is on the verge of a renaissance of manufacturing.
“Companies are about as well-positioned as they will be in decades,” he said.
Meg Whitman, president and CEO of HP, formerly Hewlett-Packard, speaking by video, said the company will be working with four- and two-year Montana colleges and universities, including tribal colleges, to expand opportunities for entrepreneurship in the state.
HP will work with interested leaders and faculty to integrate its HP LIFE e-Learning initiative into the colleges and universities, Whitman said. It has the potential “to make a positive difference in job creation and grow healthy local economies,” she said.
The summit was the sixth economic development event organized by Baucus and his staff since 2000.
“I was inspired to see so many Montanans from every corner of the state gather in Butte to focus on jobs,” Baucus said. “While the summit is over, this is really just the start. We have a lot of work ahead, and the key to making this really work will be the follow up and follow through.”
Baucus said he will be checking for progress and encouraged people to reach out if they need help cutting red tape.
“We really are on the cusp of a major breakthrough when it comes to Montana jobs, and the level of interest summit is evidence,” he said.
Montana Chamber of Commerce President Webb Brown said in an interview that a big goal of the conference is to create networking opportunities to help develop business opportunities in the state.
“It’s not just come and sit and listen to speakers,” Brown said. “It’s to actually get some things done.”
The high-profile speakers are “the attractant to get the people (to the conference) who are going to make some deals,” he said.
“That’s the inspiration,” Brown said. “The people who are making the contracts – that’s the perspiration. That’s what we want out of this: What actually helped to allow you to add one more person to the payroll.”