October 31, 2013
On November 14, 2012, exactly two weeks after the Missoula Economic Partnership’s last annual meeting, a Maine-based trailer manufacturing company signed a lease to establish operations at the former Stimson lumber mill in Bonner. Today, Alcom is a fast-growing local success story, providing quality jobs to approximately 50 workers and helping to re-energize the community of Bonner. By the end of 2014, the company expects to quadruple its present workforce.
The announcement of Alcom’s decision to come to Missoula County was the first among numerous positive steps along the path of economic development in the past year. Through the assistance of Missoula Economic Partnership, local companies have received funding to expand their workforces and explore new business models; new capital investment has begun to pour into our community; entrepreneurs have accessed training and planning assistance; and new programs have been established to serve vital needs in our community.
Economic development is, by its nature, an incremental process. The key is sustained, professional and strategic effort on all fronts.
Helping Local Businesses Grow
Bringing new business in to our community may grab the biggest headlines. However, we know that 80 percent of economic growth typically comes from the expansion of existing companies in a community. We therefore focus the lion’s share of our work in this area.
PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION
In the past year, we have …
• Helped local companies secure funding of more than $1.7 million, in support of 235 new jobs.
• Helped an incoming company receive nearly $1 million in support of 200 new jobs.
• Provided individualized, prescriptive strategic guidance to 112 companies.
• Presented 43 Innovation Initiative sessions attended by 200+ businesspeople.
• Hosted a Developer Showcase; as a result, one attendee now has several Missoula properties under contract.
• Co-presented “Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken” to 75 Montana business leaders. One Missoula company is now working on prototypes as a result.
• Initiated the Big Data Alliance and Family Enterprise Montana.
Additionally, we have …
• Attracted six companies to Missoula, and met with more than 40 that are considering a relocation or expansion here.
• Helped four local companies access hundreds of thousands of dollars through the MEP Angel Network.
In 2013 alone, we have met with and provided strategic guidance to 112 local companies. In most cases, these relationships are ongoing, involving multiple meetings over the course of months as we help those companies refine and ultimately execute their growth plans. Additionally, more than 200 local entrepreneurs and businesspeople have received actionable insight through 43 Innovation Initiative sessions presented in the past year by local thought leaders.
The MEP Angel Network held its second pitch session last March; altogether that program has connected four local companies with hundreds of thousands of dollars in risk capital, helping them grow while keeping them connected to Missoula.
Together with the BitterRoot Economic Development District, Montana Community Development Corporation, Missoula Redevelopment Agency and other strategic partners, we’ve helped secure funding of more than $1.7 million in the past year for local companies including Hunting GPS Maps, Nutritional Laboratories Inc., TeraDact Solutions, Rocky Mountain Biologicals and Rivertop Renewables. As a result, those businesses plan to add a total of 235 jobs with better-than- average salaries. Missoula as a whole has deployed a greater amount of economic development assistance funding in the past year than any other Montana community.
Economic growth isn’t just about jobs; it is also about capital investment. Toward that end, we joined with Mayor John Engen to host Missoula’s first Developer’s Showcase in June. We brought eight developers together for a tour of local sites and meetings with key strategic partners and investors in Missoula Economic Partnership. As a direct result, one of those developers now has several properties under contract in Missoula, which could equate to tens of millions of dollars in new capital investment.
Altogether, more than $100 million in public and private projects are expected to break ground in the next year alone — an unprecedented development boom for our community.
Enhancing Business Development Programs
Along the way, we have continued to establish key programs to enhance opportunity in Missoula and augment the services offered by our strategic partners.
Last spring, we partnered with Global Development Services, manager of the Montana World Trade Center, to present a daylong seminar titled “Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken” to 75 Montana business leaders. Drawing from research that we co-sponsored, the event identified opportunities for manufacturers and professional service providers who, from here, can serve the needs of companies in the Bakken oil fields of eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Since then, one Missoula company has begun working on prototypes for products that could serve a significant market in the Bakken.
In August, we partnered with MonTEC and Blackfoot Telecommunications to bring gigabit broadband service to MonTEC, establishing that facility as the premiere high-tech business incubator in Montana.
That partnership dovetailed neatly with another new initiative, the Big Data Alliance, which aims to enhance Missoula’s position as a world leader in big data analytics. Through the Alliance, we’re connecting local business, government and educational leaders to address infrastructure needs and identify big data opportunities in areas such as cybersecurity, natural resource management, health care and others.
Recognizing that family-owned businesses form the bedrock of our local and statewide economies, we announced Family Enterprise Montana, a project with the University of Montana aimed at helping those businesses plan for the future and explore issues of next-generation leadership, ownership and management, strategic planning, family dynamics and family governance.
To keep the community apprised of our efforts during the past year, we’ve continued to provide a monthly column in the Missoulian’s InBusiness section, and we unveiled a comprehensive new website that features in-depth community information and resources for businesses, including a customized GIS Site Selector tool built by GCS Research.
Attracting New Business to Missoula
All along, we’ve continued to work with professional site selectors and respond to direct inquiries from companies interested in relocating or expanding into Missoula County.
Since its inception, the Partnership has hosted site visits by 16 companies. To date, 6 of those have launched local operations, bringing new jobs and new capital investment into our community while adding important diversification to our economic base. Given that relatively short timeframe, our success rate has been remarkable. Altogether, we’ve engaged with more than 40 companies considering a move here, representing more than 2,000 potential jobs.
Will all of those companies choose Missoula? We’re realistic enough to know they won’t. But even a fraction of them could provide a significant impact to our local economy.
Regardless, we won’t wait for them to decide. Day after day, the Partnership’s staff forges ahead on all fronts as we work to expand Missoula’s economy and grow opportunity for businesses and workers in our community.
We have only begun to see the fruits of all these efforts. But we, the board of directors of Missoula Economic Partnership, are confident in our strategy as we look ahead to our third year of operation.
We encourage you to get in touch directly with us or the staff if you have any questions or needs, and we thank you for your continued support of the Partnership. Without you, this effort could not succeed.
October 2013, by the Missoula Economic Partnership Board: Dave Beaton, Scott Burke, Brent Campbell, Steve Carlson, Jeff Crouch, Jean Curtiss, John Engen, Royce Engstrom, Jeff Fee, Grant Kier, George Lambros, Stacey Mueller, Tom Pew, Deb Poteet, Dirk Visser and Faye Hanson Warren.