Montana NextGen, a statewide project, is underway to complete an analysis of Montana’s economic and community development tools, programs, and funding mechanisms. This collaborative effort is being led by the Montana Economic Developers Association and the Montana Chamber Foundation. They have contracted with TIP Strategies, an economic strategy firm, to complete a comprehensive strategic plan. MEDA President and Exec Director of Big Sky Economic Development Steve Arveschoug explains.

“Let’s take a fresh look at what those community and economic development tools need to look like given how rapidly our economy is changing and how business does business,” Arveschoug said. “Things look so much different. We need to look at some of the emerging issues that our business and civic communities are facing across the state, both urban and rural, because things are so much different than they were 20 years ago.”

Arveschoug says an effort like this has not been conducted at the grassroots level for nearly 20 years.

“We thought now is the time, let’s get busy, do our homework, do this analysis, look at what is going on in Montana, what those tools are doing, and also look at best practices for a community in economic development, other communities, and other states that we would compete with,” Arveschoug said.

According to Arveschoug, they’re doing outreach visits across the state and have already met with several state agencies, city mayors, and other community leaders. Outreach meetings have started with central and eastern Montana and will continue throughout the state over the next four months to gather key rural, tribal, and urban perspectives.

“We talk to elected officials, business groups, and other civic groups,” Arveschoug said. “We ask them what is working, what is not, and what are you biggest challenges. If we were to adopt a new set of programs or strengthen the programs you already have, what would that look like and feel like to you.”

Outreach meetings will be held in and around Missoula from March 16-19. Anyone with questions is asked to contact MEDA Coordinator Gloria O’Rourke at 406-563-5259. The project will wrap up later this spring and final presentations for the strategic plan will take place at the spring MEDA conference in May.