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The goal: Create 2,500 new “primary jobs” and another 2,375 spin-off jobs in Missoula that pay an annual salary of $37,000.

The method for achieving that? Go on the offense. Raise $3.2 million for an aggressive, ambitious public-private five-year strategic plan that will better position Missoula for increased wealth and bring to the city meaningful, robust growth.

As Missoula’s new economic development initiative – the Best Place Project – moves forward, these are just some of the targets its leaders will focus on, said James Grunke, a national fundraising expert and facilitator hired to help launch the Best Place Project.

Envisioned by Missoula Mayor John Engen and crafted with input from 25 Missoula business and community leaders, the plan – which is soon to go public – has a host of other priorities.

On the to-do list: Generate direct payroll totaling $172 million annually from new or expanding businesses in targeted sectors. Increase new capital investments by $150 million. Encourage 25 new business start-ups with innovative or tech-related concepts. Recruit 25 “best-fit” companies to Missoula by 2015. Conduct four to six annual business prospective missions and trade events to attract national statewide and regional site selection consultants and targeted prospects seeking business opportunities.

“We have been meeting for a while now, and this is an exciting time,” said Jeff Fee, president of St. Patrick Hospital and one of three business leaders chairing the project’s 25-member board of directors. “This plan puts some tangible numbers out there.

“What makes this so special is that it clearly identifies what we are going to do – that this initiative is not just a concept,” he said. “This is about honing in on specific targets.”

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Although draft copies are still being tinkered with, Grunke is excited for the community to read through the plan in detail, become familiar with the objectives – and to get involved.

“The highlights, for me, are the goals in this plan,” Grunke said. “They were crafted by Missoulians, they are clearly articulated, and this plan is really different from most other economic development plans because the goals are clear, they are measurable and they are goals that are accountable.”

Smart, managed, sustainable growth that syncs with the needs of the 21st century is at the core of Missoula’s initiative, he said. Such lofty goals will be the duties of the yet-to-be-assembled governing body that will steer the effort and bring the project’s priorities to life.

Direct strategies to accomplish the work include increasing the level of business community engagement with Missoula County Public Schools and other education programs; identify supplier “gaps” in key business and manufacturing sectors; help companies identify and access new market opportunities; and develop angel networks and venture capital.

Missoulians can expect to learn more details about the Best Place Project when its capital campaign kicks off during the holiday season, around the first of December, Grunke said.

“The momentum is building,” Fee said, “and once the capital campaign gets on the street, we can raise the money to get everything in place to go after those jobs.”

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