Bullock

Gov. Steve Bullock announces the winners of Montana Innovator Awards on Thursday at the Top Hat Lounge.

DAVID ERICKSON, Missoulian

Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday announced the regional recipients of Montana Innovator Awards, which were selected by Montanans for Good Jobs and Clean Air, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations and businesses united in support of a responsible energy future.

“We’re here today to really honor and recognize that spirit of innovation, which by and large really does set Montana and Montanans apart,” Bullock said to a crowd at the Top Hat Lounge. “As governor, I’ll continue to do my work on building emerging industries that encourage innovation. That’s really one of the pillars of economic growth as we look to the future. One area where we’re particularly going to need that entrepreneurial activity is our emerging energy economy. I also have a responsibility that Montana is prepared for the 21st century. That our kids and grandkids will have every opportunity that we had in this state growing up and more.”

Bullock said that one of the most pressing challenges will be creating more good jobs in the energy economy.

“While at the same time keeping our environment clean, our rivers cold, our agriculture thriving and our kids and families healthy,” he said. “That’s important. We can create those opportunities and keep Montana preserved and keep more jobs here. That’s what brings us here today: To honor the businesses that are looking to the future and leading the way in renewable energy and job creation.”

The Missoula-area recipients were:

• The Confederates Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which was the first tribe in the nation to become the sole licensee for a major regulated hydroelectric facility. CSKT is also the first tribe in the nation to become an independent power producer, and the tribe has explored other renewable energy sources on the Flathead Indian Reservation, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

• Energetechs, a Missoula company that founded and launched Glo European Windows, which sells energy-efficient windows and doors around the country.

• Flathead Electric Cooperative, which saved more than 117,000 megawatts of electricity last year through energy-efficiency programs, enough to power almost 10,000 homes on an annual basis. The co-op also operates the state’s only landfill gas-to-energy plant.

• Missoula College’s Energy Technology Program, which, under the leadership of associate professor Bradley Layton, introduces students to energy systems and technology, both traditional and renewable. Missoula College is also building a new LEED-certified campus, and Layton and his students and alumni are working with local industries and inventors on renewable energy technologies and carbon pollution mitigation strategies.

• MMW Architects, which designed the Park Place parking structure to demonstrate leadership in municipal stewardship of the environment. The solar panels on the structure produce about 85 percent of its total power needs. MMW’s Orchard Gardens affordable housing units feature ground-source heat pumps that reduce energy use by 40 percent from conventional systems.

• Solar Plexus, founded by Mary Hamilton and Lee Tavenner 21 years ago, for creating a publicly accessible learning center and reliable installation service for those interested in solar and hydroelectric alternatives. Solar Plexus has installed nearly 2 megawatts of renewable energy in Montana at almost no cost to the ratepayers or taxpayers.

Award winners all received a supply of Montana Innovator Ale, specially made for the occasion by Bridger Brewing Co. In August, the Bozeman-area winners were announced. They were Absaroka Energy, Bozeman Climate Partners, Bozeman Green Build, NaturEner and NorthWestern Energy.

Montanans for Good Jobs and Clean Air includes the Montana AFL-CIO, the Montana Farmers Union, Montana Conservation Voters, the Montana Renewable Energy Association, and sporting businesses and organizations.

"Fifty years from now, folks will be thanking the people in this room who took responsibility," said Missoula Mayor John Engen. "When I was growing up, Missoula's air was sliceable. We made choices as a community, and the air is much, much, much better now."

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