Missoula Economic Partnership graph

One of the many graphs that was presented at the Missoula Economic Partnership's annual investor breakfast on Friday.

DAVID ERICKSON david.erickson@missoulian.com

Since the Missoula Economic Partnership was formed in 2011, the nonprofit organization has helped bring 906 new jobs and $120.1 million in new capital investment to Missoula County, according to an economic impact analysis performed by National Community Development Services, an Atlanta-based economic development strategy and analysis consulting firm.

Released Friday, the report also showed that every dollar spent on economic development by investors in the partnership has resulted in $13.28 being returned to the community in average corporate profits.

Earlier this year, the MEP commissioned the report to determine the organization’s performance against key benchmarks during its first three years of operation.

The report was presented at the MEP’s annual investor meeting on the University of Montana campus Friday morning. The meeting included speeches by UM President Royce Engstrom, MEP board chairman Jeff Fee, Missoula Mayor John Engen and MEP president James Grunke.

Brian Ellestad, deputy director of the Missoula International Airport, gave a presentation on the airline industry and flight costs out of Missoula. There was also a discussion of the highlights of the report by Tom DiFiore, president of NCDS.

The MEP was formed in the wake of a string of bad news for Missoula in 2010, including closure of the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. mill near Frenchtown and the Macy’s store in downtown Missoula.

“There were some decisions made by corporations that weren’t headquartered here to close some businesses that were still making money here in our community,” Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss explained at the breakfast. “So under the leadership of our mayor and Jeff Fee, we had a community conversation about how we make a difference and create our own future and not let that happen again. This truly is a public/private partnership and that’s what makes it work. We’ve all invested in our own future.”

The MEP has more than 100 investors, mostly local businesses or business people, and has partnered with several dozen public and private agencies. When the MEP launched, the organization set an ambitious five-year goal to facilitate the creation of 2,500 new jobs, help attract $150 million in capital investment in Missoula, help attract 25 “best fit” business relocations and assist in the launch or startup of 25 new companies.

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To analyze the MEP’s progress on the first two of those goals, the NCDS interviewed 94 local companies that received direct, prescriptive assistance from the organization. The NCDS calculated that the MEP’s work resulted in:

• New income of $57.3 million and new economic output of $203.8 million.

• Spending power and output created by new jobs resulted in the indirect creation of 558 additional new jobs and the induced creation of another 529 new jobs, for a total job impact of 1,993 local jobs. Those jobs have a total income impact of $100.5 million, and total output of $325.4 million annually.

• $120.1 million in new capital investments by 30 local businesses, which represents 80 percent of MEP's five-year goal for new capital investment.

• $7.1 million in new property tax revenues and $3.02 million in new income tax revenues.

DiFiore said that an important gauge of any local economy’s health is how many businesses have significant revenue that comes from outside of the community or state.

“From an economic development standpoint, that’s the Holy Grail,” he said. “Companies that bring in money from outside your community, that’s what creates wealth.”

His studies showed that 78 of the 94 companies he surveyed had significant markets outside of Montana.

“That’s really good,” he said.

DiFiore said that his analysis shows that Missoula County is headed in the right direction.

“We don’t always see progress this substantial and this early from relatively young economic development organizations like Missoula Economic Partnership,” DiFiore said. “This report should be encouraging to investors as well as to everyone in the community, from real estate agents to doctors to baristas, who will benefit from local growth for years to come.”

Sixty-two of the 94 businesses surveyed are what DiFiore called “core industries,” such as health services and computer-based industries that create jobs and bring in wealth from beyond the community.

In his address to the crowd, Grunke said the organization has helped launch more than 70 startup companies and facilitated eight business relocations to the community.

“Progress isn’t linear when it comes to job creation, business relocations and other benchmarks of economic development,” Grunke concluded. “The success we’ve achieved so far will only compound as time goes on. So we believe we are well ahead of schedule to achieve all of our five-year goals, and we will continue to press forward toward building a more prosperous future for our community.”

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