What is your attitude towards business growth and new job opportunity? Not something you may have given much thought, however it definitely is something your state and county elected officials give thought to, as well they should, because they make decisions that affect our appearance and attitude as a place to do business. Are we inviting new businesses? Do we have our welcome mat in place?
The state is experiencing strong new growth in the oil and gas regions of central and eastern Montana. However, growth projections for the western side are showing a much slower rate of growth. We need to prepare and maximize our opportunities. We have many positive elements to offer new businesses. Desirable place to live, good work ethic and available work force. Good education and tech training facilities. If we are going to attract new startups, and new businesses looking to relocate, we must have all the right ingredients in place. We are competing with other counties and other regions for these companies. To win a race takes good fundamentals, preparation and training. Are we doing all we can to place these businesses here?
Over the next ten years our county is projected to increase population in the retired age sector, lose a little in the middle and stay about the same in the younger years. This will change our revenue slightly if we don’t grow. New jobs provide the revenue that fuels our county and state expenditures through property and income taxes, plus provides the opportunity for our young adults to have careers right here at home.
The spirit of entrepreneurship is strong in our state, there is opportunity in many new areas like, health care, technology providers and producers, and industrial and small manufacturing. How do we get businesses to look at our county? It starts with this; good infrastructure is essential. Good roads, water, electricity, sewer, railroad, good internet and band width service. Business and industrial districts already set up with potential for tax assistance and loans to help work with startup costs. Without these we are not able to compete with the neighboring regions that do have. New businesses tend to go where the business essentials and climate are best.
Ravalli County is fortunate to already have in place one of the best staffed (Julie Foster and John Schneeberger) and highly respected County Economic Development Authorities in the state. This is where the welcome mat becomes reality for a new business as this is the agency where they get direction and assistance. To provide that assistance they need the tools to work with and this is where your elected officials, state and county, along with community leaders play a very important role, working together towards the common goal of providing the best business opportunity possible in our county. They can’t just wish it, they have to work together with the Departments of Commerce and Department of Revenue on making sure we have the right economic resource programs. Julie and John are key pieces in the puzzle, they need the rest of us to do our part to make the vision of growth a reality.
The 2013 legislature revised Tax Increment Financing with SB 239 by amending the Montana Urban Renewal Law that helps non-urban areas, like Ravalli County, to be able to create a type of district called a Targeted Economic Development District. This provides consistency to city and county governments in creating tax increment financing districts. These are key pieces to the growth puzzle by enabling ways to provide a well defined plan for economic growth that includes predictability, which is crucial to all businesses and their long range planning.
Visit with your legislators, county commissioners and community officials. Share your ideas and support theirs in moving our county and region forward in providing job growth opportunity. And, we’ll do the same. Your valley state legislators, together with the Ravalli County Economic Authority, are scheduling some meetings in February with local existing and new businesses for a listening and discussion session to hear from them their ideas for improving our economic opportunities. We care about our county’s economic future.
Are you thinking drawbridge, or are you thinking opportunity? It matters.
Ed Greef, Representative HD 90