What is “Best fit” for Missoula?
You can’t be all things to all people, as the saying goes. This is very true, as well, for attracting companies to your community. In some cases, the community’s assets or size might not be appropriate for a given employer. In other cases, the kind of business may not be right for the community. Therefore, the most successful economic development efforts target the industries they seek to attract.
Targeting begins by determining a “best fit” by sector or industry. When the movement to launch a new economic development approach for Missoula began, the city and community leaders commissioned a comprehensive study of the community’s economic development efforts and entities. Titled A Competitive Realities Report and Business Target Recommendations for Missoula, Montana, it was conducted by Garner Economics. The study researched every aspect of economic development for Missoula, including industry target selection.
Target selection, or choosing best-fit companies, is based on a range of criteria that matches the community’s assets with the general needs of industry sectors. These assets and needs include the talent pool, education, quality of life, land costs, access to specialized skills, transportation, tax base and more. At the same time, economic developers look at the needs of the community — such as environmental impact, average wage paid, number of jobs, potential for growth and competitive industry set — and reach out to industries that fill those needs.
Think of it as matchmaking. The Garner report recommended several industry sectors as ideal targets for Missoula’s economic development efforts, including:
- Creative Professional Services: These are typically smaller firms with high-paying jobs. They also rely heavily on attracting creative talent. Further, they are capable of exporting their work without the need for a centralized location. Examples in this sector include engineering, architecture, computer system design and marketing. Missoula’s high levels of educational attainment, graduates with creative skills and quality-of-place amenities fit this sector perfectly.
- Shared/Back-office Services: These include call centers, office administrative services, bookkeeping services and facilities support services. These employers tend to pay excellent wages and don’t require a centralized location for transporting goods. Missoula’s access to university graduates, low labor and land costs, access to quality management personnel and our nonurban location make the town an ideal match for this sector.
- Medical/Pharmaceutical Wholesaling: Missoula has a strong industry specialization in wholesaling and transportation/warehousing. Combined with our quality-of-life amenities and high number of university graduates in biomedical and pharmacy, that specialization makes Missoula an ideal location for this industry. In addition, Missoula’s relatively low land cost and ready access to infrastructure fit this sector well.
Of course, these are just three of the sectors being considered based on the Garner report. Missoula also has other highly desirable traits such as a genuinely skilled labor force that make it attractive to certain kinds of light and advanced manufacturing. Our community’s entrepreneurial resources are appealing to start-up ventures and the self-employed.
Regardless of the sector pursued, our goals are the same. We seek companies that will find in Missoula the talent, amenities and infrastructure they need to grow, thrive and generate jobs at or above our targeted mean. At the same time, these companies must fit our culture and our desire to protect what we love about the place where we live.
Defining and attracting best-fit companies will be an ongoing process, but it’s an important one. For creating a best fit is the surest way to generate long-term economic success and job growth for Missoula’s economy.