Missoula’s economy is poised to take advantage of opportunities in the Bakken, according to the Missoula Economic Partnership.

“We’re kind of positioning Missoula as the entry point, surprisingly enough, to the Bakken,” president James Grunke said last week to members of the Missoula City Council.

Initiated by Mayor John Engen after the economy crashed, the Missoula Economic Partnership works on economic development. The city of Missoula invested $500,000 in the program when it launched in 2011, and Wednesday, Grunke and the MEP’s director of business development shared several updates with members of the council.

Grunke kicked off his report touting the opportunities in the Bakken, noting its potential despite being hundreds of miles away. The oil fields are of interest statewide, he said, and servicing the Bakken on the manufacturing front requires being several hundred miles away to tap an available workforce.

In conjunction with the Montana World Trade Center, the MEP created a comprehensive 48-page manual for taking advantage of business activities in the Bakken, Grunke said. He said the MEP is taking the presentation outside Montana and all the way to London and Amsterdam, although it isn’t using investor dollars for the travel.

“It’s been well received,” Grunke said of the manual.

One of the major impediments for business activity in Missoula is the high cost of airfare, and last year, the MEP tried to secure a contract with Frontier Airlines. Brigitta Miranda-Freer, the MEP’s director of business development, told the council the deal fell through because in the end, Frontier had fewer aircraft available in its fleet.

However, she said the MEP, the Missoula County Airport Authority and Destination Missoula recently met with Frontier again to make the business case for Missoula one more time. This fall, the MEP will follow up with Frontier, and she said the hope is to initiate service in spring 2014.

“We know it’s something we need to tackle for the benefit of our community,” Miranda-Freer said.

The MEP also is working on a “homegrown solution” for in-state service, a difficult task because the state is so large, she said. A local former pilot is working on the idea as a pet project.

She said the MEP is constantly connecting with entrepreneurs. In just one week on the recruitment front, the partnership met with a medical device manufacturer that could bring 100 jobs here, a technology company from San Francisco that could mean up to 300 jobs, a service provider that’d bring a handful and a manufacturing firm that’d mean 50 to 100 jobs.

In one case, a company started the conversation with the MEP about bringing a customer care center to Missoula, she said. Then, after the partnership linked the company with local entrepreneurs, the company expressed interest in opening a larger facility here, she said.

“Will this prospect pull the trigger on Missoula?” Miranda-Freer said.

She doesn’t know yet, but the MEP continues to illustrate the programs that are available to different businesses that can be deployed quickly and impact their bottom lines. Just this week, the MEP helped a local company apply for a grant that would lead to a 15 percent to 20 percent expansion, or 50 jobs in the next two years.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Miranda-Freer, who said she’ll know the outcome of the application in three months. “It’s a good, longstanding company in our community, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them.”

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5262.

Reporter for the Missoulian

(15) comments

bigerdog
bigerdog

Wait a minute all the way to Amsterdam and London but not on investors money? Then whose money are you talking about. The MEP is talking about bringing jobs to Missoula ? Yes those high paying $8 an hour ones. You talk of all these good jobs but I don't see how much they are paying. Time for the Mayor to go and dissolve the money pit called MEP. And after getting stuck in traffic on Broadway last Thursday it's time for that so called Broadway diet to go also!

Roswal
Roswal

Progressives and Regressives alike can agree that Engen, or who ever was in charge of using $500,000 on this has completely wasted the money. My third grader could tell me everything this report has told us....

Dubs
Dubs

"entry point" are you serious!! Our commissioners fell on their faces when the trucks came through town! This is to crazy to even repeat---Missoula should not make one cent off the Bakken.

GaryTinkSanders
GaryTinkSanders

Well dub's that is how a parasitic government works, it sucks the life blood out of anyone and everyone that works for a living. They don't want fossil fuel but they want all the stained money they can get their filthy little hands on to compensate for their miserably failing policies. Give me half a million dollars and I will put some good jobs on the table not just talk about it and that is the difference between producers and non-producers, workers and parasites.

GaryTinkSanders
GaryTinkSanders

500,000 dollars and we have a 48 page booklet to tell Missoulian's how to exploit the BIG OIL INDUSTRY and bring the money back to Missoula because the progressives have managed to run most of the industries out of town and now they are desperate for cash to keep pushing their insane agenda. Hypocritical comes to mind when these people want to do away with the extraction industries then shows our workforce how to do it. I don't know about the rest of you but If I were a voter in the city limits of Missoula my backside would be getting a little sore by now. Grunke's gotta go right along with all the rest of the agenda 21 pushing progressives.

julio
julio

We agree Missoula is desperate and hypocritical. remember the protests on oil sands drums and equipment. that will NOT be forgotten. Besides Billings and Great Falls are much closer and arent anti business. Back to under water basket weaving Missoula...

Kinnikinnick
Kinnikinnick

Having studied Missoula extensively starting way back with the Best Place Project (http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/index.aspx?nid=100), Grunke should understand by now that we would never want our "Best Place" to come at the expense of dirty energy extraction and the destruction of other peoples' communities. I have family in the Bakken now: he's starting with his third company there after only 4 months. The first two pulled up and left with no warning, leaving him and about 50 other men owed thousands of dollars each, with families at home struggling to maintain their homes here while paying exorbitant rent for him to be over there as well ($750/mo to share an RV 80 miles from his work site). There is nothing about the Bakken that makes sense in any way. A few will get rich, the rest of us will have to live with and clean up the consequences.

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Good point. Not everyone is making money in the oil fields........this article demonstrates just how desperate Grunke is to look busy.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan

There is money to be made out there that don't entail direct work in the oil fields as long as you can find a place to live. They are desperate for people in the Medical Fields, law enforcement, concrete construction, plumbing/heating, electric work, mechanical work, service jobs (McDonald's pays near 20 bucks an hour). If you want to make money over there and don't have a place to live, you could be living in 12 by 12 space in a basement or garage at a rate of $800 a month.

With the housing shortage as bad as it is in the Bakken, I would like to see a movement to build housing shacks (or mancamps) in Missoula that could be sent Eastbound. An incentive to for a company to build fracking machinery or equipment in Missoula to be sent Eastbound would also provide jobs in Missoula.

independent
independent

Sorry the factory to manufacture the fracking machinery is being built in Cut Bank. Missoula's anti business reputation will always precedes it and this won't stop until we remove all the progressive leftists from our government.

walter12
walter12

Yes, we have all been told that oil is bad, except when you want a piece of the pie, well then it is ok. Keep the governments out of the oil bed and then maybe some money may be spent to everyone's benefit.

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Again.......this article was planted by Super Loser Grunke..........NOT one job produced. Your fired dude...........

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Engen has NOTHING to show for the $500k of our stinking tax monies he spent on the likes of Super Loser JIm Bob Grunke.

MEP was to add 2500 jobs to Missoula, instead, Grunke managed a NET LOSS of jobs.

This is typical of progressives.......they always appoint a "Czar" to perform a job that would naturally occur had not the progressives made the work environment totally hostile.

Well GRUNKE........where are the jobs? I know you read this.......show us what kind of man you are and respond this request. Where are the jobs you promised? Why......are you still here?

Solution: How about we STOP funding Grunke's job? He has not produced anything except expenses. The only reason he is here is that he realized three years ago that there is no market for Grunke's........so he came back to be Engen's lap dog. And we all know what a dynamo Engen is on all things economy!! Don't vote for this man again.......vote for my poodle instead.

bigsky4
bigsky4

So now Missoula wants to cash in on the Bakken and it's eeevil oil money... what a bunch of hypocrites.
Good luck with that.


old farmer
old farmer

Well said. It wasn't that long ago Missoula protested any equipment shipping through the valley. I remember one of the U.of M. professors spouting off about the evils of oil company's making a profit. He used the word "profit tiring". When the oil turns green and slides to there palms it is OK. Most liberals are hypocrites, .

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