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BUTTE – From Montana firms to some of the nation’s largest corporations, nearly 100 businesses donated some $250,000 to finance U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ two-day Economic Development Summit here this week.

And while the businesses provided the money, Baucus’ staff and workers and volunteers at the Montana Tech campus pretty much did the rest.

Ray Rogers, hired by the Baucus staff to coordinate the event, said it’s probably the biggest event ever hosted by Montana Tech.

“They wanted an event at which the rule was an event that went off flawlessly,” he said of the scores of Tech staffers and community volunteers who worked at the event.

About 4,000 people attended the two-day conference, held all across the Tech campus in uptown Butte.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce handled fundraising for the event, hiring a contractor to help solicit the money, said Webb Brown, chamber president. Donors gave anywhere from $250 to as much as $25,000 each, depending on what they could afford, he said.

The sponsoring companies include Ford Motor Co., General Electric, Exxon Mobil, drug manufacturer Pfizer, Walmart, Microsoft and Boeing, as well as Montana-based firms like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, Bank of Montana and Stillwater Mining Co.

Brown said the companies get some exposure and publicity for their trouble, but that they also believe in the event.

“I really do think that people are motivated by the fact that this is something that’s going to build Montana’s economy and create jobs,” he said.

The money pays for printing, the sound system, signs, food, badges, tents and many other items.

Baucus, a 39-year veteran of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and his staff work for nearly two years on organizing the conference, arranging speakers and panels, and coordinating the overall logistics, his office said.

Rogers said the Montana Tech campus “absolutely embraces this event,” shutting down classes for two days and using the entire campus, from classrooms to the HPER Complex to the library.

When organizers ran out of prepared lunches for the 3,000-plus people attending Monday, they sent people to the Student Union cafeteria, which cranked out sandwiches and burgers at no charge to attendees.

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