Grunke column: Partnership’s business attraction effort gains focus

If attracting companies to Missoula was as easy as showing a post card of a bluebird ski day at Snowbowl or of an angler standing knee deep in the Clark Fork River during her lunch break, population growth here would be pushing that of many provinces in China. As attractive and inviting as Missoula is, and as obviously fantastic as the community seems to each of us, it isn’t right for every person or every type of business.

When it comes to attraction efforts then, it pays to be very planned in whom you target and how. At the Missoula Economic Partnership, our strategic plan calls for some specific steps to spur our attraction efforts. I’m pleased to report we are making significant progress in several areas.

We’ve created an inventory of what Missoula encompasses and generated a list of industries that need what we offer. Some target businesses are obvious fits. For example, we’d like to attract wood product and advanced manufacturers, particularly ones focused on using biomass for renewable energy and sustainable finished goods. Other targets such as biosciences and professional services are perhaps less intuitive — until you look at the quality of University of Montana graduates in biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, computer and geosciences, business, law and more who enter the job market each spring. By focusing our outreach efforts on sectors that need what Missoula has in abundance, our odds of successfully attracting best-fit companies increases substantially. Over the next few months we will use this information and target list to develop messaging, define tactics and media, and establish a foundation for national public relations.

We’re also making progress toward cultivating professional advocates for Missoula around the country. To do this we are actively marketing to top site selection firms, nationwide. In fact by the time you read this, John Engen, John Kappes and I will have returned from the annual Site Selector Guild Conference where we’ll have met face-to-face with many site selection pros. (I look forward to telling you about that visit next month.) Making them aware of what Missoula has to offer is key. Site selectors need to know that we are, indeed, open for business and ready to help relocating and expanding companies.

And we’re centralizing profiles and contact information for key strategic economic partners in the community. These are posted on, a one-stop resource for all that Missoula offers to expanding and relocating businesses. In that same vein, we are nearly finished compiling key economic, business and lifestyle statistics on the Missoula area. These stats — which cover demographics, education, government resources, tax-base data and much more — are essential for selection committees comparing potential communities.

Lastly, we continue to pursue best-fit companies interested in Missoula. That often begins by connecting these companies to the resources — private and public — they need to make their discovery processes and potential moves easy and efficient.

In short, we are making our attraction efforts as appealing as our mountains, rivers and way of life. For a synopsis of our strategic plan please visit Or call Brigitta Miranda-Freer, director of Business Development, at 541-6461.

This column by James Grunke, CEO of Missoula Economic Partnership, originally appeared in the January 30, 2012 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