By Michael Howell
Ravalli County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to withdraw from the Bitter Root Economic Development District (BREDD), the federally designated economic development district for western Montana covering Mineral, Missoula and Ravalli counties. BREDD was incorporated in 2002 and hired its first staff person in August of 2006. It is supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.
According to County Commissioner Greg Chilcott who serves on the local Ravalli County Economic Development Authority and has worked with BREDD since the District was first formed in 2002, the District’s mission, when it started, was to bring together private and public sector stakeholders in a partnership that would provide a coordinated economic development strategy for the region.
Chilcott said that BREDD started out under the umbrella of Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and he believed the mission at the time was to serve as a sort of clearing house to help coordinate and support local economic development organizations. But after moving out from under RC&D, Missoula County invested in a lot of staff for the program, and, according to Chilcott, the mission of the organization began to shift. He said that BREDD’s latest strategic plan called Economic Gardening places BREDD into direct competition for grant monies with the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority.
“We are frustrated and we’ve been trying to understand it,” Chilcott said in an interview. “It seems like they are placing themselves in direct conflict with the RCEDA in competition for funds but they are primarily serving the Missoula area.”
Chilcott said that it was counterproductive, at this point, for Ravalli County to be a part of BREDD.