The Missoula Economic Partnership team had a productive two days at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte last week, president James Grunke said.

Along with a strong presence of Missoula leaders who spoke on various panels, a set of strategic meetings were held behind the scenes with the heads of corporations like ConocoPhillips, Delta Air Lines and the Boeing Co., Grunke said.

“It’s going to do something for Missoula. We’re engaged,” Grunke said. “We orchestrated key meetings that were key to Missoula.”

For example, Grunke said MEP director of business development Brigitta Freer met with Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson about increased service to Missoula and discussed revenue guarantees.

Grunke’s focus at the summit was spreading the word and making connections to help boost the organization’s Big Data Alliance, focused on creating educational and business opportunities in the big data and cybersecurity industries in Missoula.

The summit featured a set of flashy, good news economic development announcements, including the expansion of a Boeing facility in Helena, a commitment from tech giant Oracle to expand operations in Bozeman and an announcement that Delta would expand service in Bozeman.

Missoula wasn’t the benefactor of any of the announcements.

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“I do think that was noticeable to people,” Grunke said. “I think it would have been nice to hear more about Missoula, but look at the life sciences panel, it was all Missoula.”

The panel “Chemistry Under the Big Sky: The Growth of Biochemicals in Montana” featured Rocky Mountain Biologicals Inc.’s founder Suresh Daniel, Blue Marble Biomaterials founder James Stephens and Rivertop Renewables Chief Executive Officer Michael Knauf.

All of those businesses are based in Missoula.

“We do have things happening,” Grunke said. “I think conversations started with ConocoPhillips and Boeing will pay great dividends (for Missoula) in the future,” Grunke said.

Grunke said that although Mayor John Engen wasn’t in attendance, there was a large contingency of the right people from Missoula in Butte. The group included the entire MEP team, a handful of MEP board members and various city representatives.

“We had the right people there,” Grunke said.

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Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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