I have been working in economic development organizations or related activities since the early 1990’s, and one of the things I have learned is to not get the high-highs or low-lows when a community wins or loses in being selected as a site for new expansion or attraction.
While we often talk about our successes, we don’t always win, and when we don’t, we like to understand why. We recently met with a company that ultimately chose another community for their relocation and I must admit it was very disappointing Missoula wasn’t selected, for a number of reasons.
First, this was the type of scenario we particularly look for. An established IT company from Southern California was looking at a new community to expand into, and ultimately would see the growth of their site to nearly 100 extremely high-paying jobs. Adding to the mix, one of the founders is a University of Montana graduate and would love the opportunity to come back to Montana, making it appear Missoula was teed up.
There were several reasons why they ultimately chose another community. The first, and most significant obstacle, were concerns about attracting, developing and retaining the workforce necessary for them to meet their growth needs. Prior to their arrival they had posted some job announcements on Craigslist, and frankly they were underwhelmed – which further underscores our need to have a robust workforce development strategy.
However, another reason that Missoula wasn’t selected is that we were not introduced to them until too late in their process. Our strength is we can provide the critical information and connections a business needs to make a decision. However, we can’t provide this information if we don’t even know a company is here in town.
Thankfully, we have a business and education community that is quick to respond when we ask, and in short notice we were able to introduce them to Doug Raiford, chair of the UM Computer Science Department, Eric Tangedahl and Jakki Mohr from the UM School of Business, and Bill Squires, CEO of Blackfoot Telecommunications. All of these people helped us make the compelling case of why Missoula would be the logical solution for them.
We appreciate that when we call a business, education or community leader – which we do often - they immediately respond to our call for help, and that is such an advantage for our community. At the end of the day, a business has to make the right decision for themselves, and we won’t always be the winner, we just want the opportunity to make our case for why Missoula is the right choice.
If you want to advance the economy of Missoula, whether it be to expand your own business, start a new business, or help bring a new business to our community, I want to talk to you and it is never too early in the process. My phone number is (406) 541-6461. Call me.
James Grunke is the CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership.