Grunke Column: Planning for the Future

The Missoula Economic Partnership develops its economic development priorities, goals and funding in five year cycles. MEP’s primary goals have been in facilitating job growth, new capital investment, company attraction and business start-ups. A strategic plan was developed by the board of directors, and it is evaluated annually. Ambitious targets were set for each of these goals, and we are just completing our second independent analysis and bench-marking report to measure our progress – and I will write more on the results in a subsequent article.

Planning for the next five years is already underway. The first step was to develop a prospectus and conduct a feasibility assessment. In July and August of this year, National Community Development Services of Atlanta, Georgia conducted the assessment and interviewed over 60 current MEP Investors, Stakeholders, Elected Officials and Community Leaders to evaluate the progress made and appetite for continued economic development efforts.

Five Program areas were presented in the prospectus: Business Retention, Expansion and Attraction; Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Workforce Development; National Marketing and Public Relations; and, Management and Communication. Those interviewed were asked to prioritize these programs and accompanying strategies.

While the feasibility study clearly indicated that Missoula business and community leaders had an appetite for continued and sustained economic development activities, several shortcomings were also identified. The most consistent was lack of communication on achieving the economic development goals, confidence in the numbers being presented, and the appearance of MEP acting too much as a “lone wolf” and not collaborating with other strategic partners.

The findings of the feasibility assessment, both positive and the identified areas for improvement, becomes the basis in the development of the next five year strategic plan. Currently, another group of approximately 50 business and community leaders are conducting what we call “program refinement” which is developing a recommendation for the MEP Board of Directors for the next five years. This plan will be completed in the coming weeks and will be presented to the community at the MEP annual meeting on November 6th.

I, as the organization’s leader, am charged with implementing the strategic vision and plan and develop the strategies necessary for success. However, I don’t create the vision nor should it be looked at as MEP’s economic development strategy, it is our community’s economic development strategy. I am interested in hearing from you on how would you prioritize the goals for the next five years and what you think should be the measures of success. Where do we go as a community and how do we know when we get there? My email is and phone numbers is 406.541.6461.
James Grunke is the President/CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership

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