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Butte's major employers are reporting a stable business economy and have little or no complaints in wake of the recent economic

downturn.

Chief Executive Paul Babb meets with the city's major employers each year and says he's received overwhelmingly positive reports for 2010.

"We're just seeing that Butte is holding its own and the picture is better than I really thought it was," Babb said. "We didn't have any of the major employers that we met with that said things are worse than the year before: They see that their business is growing, they're not laying off people, they're not cutting salaries - all of those types of things are

See BUSINESS, Page A8

good news."

Accompanying Babb to the ongoing meetings are Marko Lucich, director of the Butte Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Smitham, director of the Butte Local Development Corp.

Babb, Smitham and Lucich have met with Montana Tech, REC Silicon, St. James Healthcare, MSE Technology Applications, Montana Resources, NorthWestern Energy and The Montana Standard.

Meetings also are planned with Town Pump and Community Counseling and Correctional Services.

Smitham described the meetings as "very encouraging" and said they help local leaders keep up with the success of local businesses while also being aware of any potential issues.

"We want to make sure we're right in synch with them," he said.

Local employers reported business as "status quo" during last year's meetings, but said things have improved, Smitham said.

He said employers are seeing good market trends and some are planning to add additional personnel.

"The community looks solid as far as that goes," Smitham said.

Yet, neither Babb nor Smitham see the report as an indication that the local economy has completely recovered.

They agreed that segments of the local economy are rebounding faster than others, but most businesses are projecting growth to continue through the year.

"Some of the businesses are looking at situations where the market is developing slower than others, but they are feeling that by mid to the end of the year they will be back on solid ground," Smitham said.

Babb and Smitham said they would like to organize quarterly luncheons or breakfast meetings to bring together the community's business leaders.

Babb said he went into this series of meetings hoping to learn how local businesses are faring amidst a weak economy.

"I was pleasantly surprised," he said. "The ones we have talked to so far are maintaining; they are not cutting and in some instances they are adding (employees)."

- Reporter Justin Post may be reached at Justin.post@lee.net or by telephone, 496-5572.

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