Grunke column: New Partnership website offers one-stop resource for economic development

Last October, Missoula Economic Partnership hosted a visit by Jerry Szatan, a professional site selector from Chicago who helps companies find new cities for their expanding or relocating operations. During his visit, Jerry offered us plenty of insight into the complex process that he follows to narrow down his list of cities and help companies make good choices.

“Succeeding in site selection is like winning ‘Survivor,’” Jerry explained during a meeting at Providence St. Patrick Hospital with business leaders from the community. “You have to stay on the island. … First, though, you have to get on the island. That’s where your website comes in: It is usually the first exposure that a site selector like myself has to your community. It’s what sets the first perceptions of your community to outsiders looking for information.”

Earlier this month, Missoula Economic Partnership unveiled a new website at a new location: Several months in the making, the site reflects the joint efforts and expertise of Partnership staff, investors and key strategic partners in the community who helped create this one-stop source of local business and community information.

While our previous website was designed primarily as an educational resource for community members interested in learning about the process and strategies of economic development, the new site puts strategy into action by providing businesspeople and entrepreneurs with thorough and useful information about our community.

That strategy begins with helping local businesses grow. Accordingly, the new site serves as a comprehensive and in-depth hub of business resources as well as links to actionable news and upcoming events in the community. Area entrepreneurs can find local market data and information about funding opportunities. And of course, materials for all of our programs — including the Innovation Initiative and the MEP Angel Network — are easily accessible.

For companies considering a relocation or expansion, the new site features a wealth of detailed factual information to help build a case for Missoula and ease the process of making a move to our community. Links to workforce development resources, tax rates and incentive programs, local infrastructure providers and other data are provided on the site.

We also outlined Missoula’s best-fit sectors and provided resources, peer company and workforce development information relevant to each sector.

In addition, we partnered with GCS Research, a Missoula-based leader in geographical information systems technology, to implement a powerful site selector tool specifically for businesses looking to open, expand or relocate in Missoula County. This one tool provides the data and insight companies need to make sound decisions when choosing a zone, neighborhood and property to do business.

This tool will be useful for local citizens as well, as it provides a wide range of data about our community such as demographics, infrastructure maps and other information not conveniently available in map-based form elsewhere.

Businesspeople and local citizens alike will also benefit from the comprehensive listing of our strategic partners, with detailed information about their programs and services. Nowhere else is all of that information available in one place.

And mobile and tablet users will note that the site adapts dynamically to their screens, making it a resource that anyone can use to pull up local information — whether during a client meeting or on the ski lift.

All in all, it is a site that reflects the advice we heard from Jerry Szatan. By providing a thorough, easily navigable resource focused squarely on our economic development strategy, the new site ultimately helps put our community on the proverbial island.

This column by James Grunke, CEO of Missoula Economic Partnership, originally appeared in the January 27, 2013 edition of the Missoulian’s Western Montana InBusiness.

Missoula Economic Partnership | 500 N. Higgins Ave. | Suite 300 | Missoula, Montana 59802 | P: 406.541.6461 | F: 406.541.6464