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How can Missoula turn its business growth into higher wages and bring the median wage into line with other Montana cities?

Job quality and compensation combined together are issues that reflect on the lack of affordability in Missoula. 

A common theme we are hearing on the campaign trail is how un-business friendly we are. The time and energy it takes to cut through the red tape is agonizing. 

In order to attract key companies, we need to be business-friendly, welcoming them into our town rather than running them off with too many unnecessary rules and regulations. The number of high-paying, high-tech jobs that have skipped right past us to Bozeman is staggering and the same reasons resonate — unfriendly business climate. We need to ensure we have a system that makes licensing and compliance easy; training and networking programs that help service professionals get their businesses up and running, teach them to comply with local established rules that make common sense and are not meant to be punitive, and meet other industry professionals. 

This also affects the affordable housing issue — if we can’t ensure that employees can find housing within their budgetary limits, companies will take their jobs elsewhere as we have already seen.

One of Bozeman's key strengths is strong university leadership. They have seen the results of this and flourished, while making sure (of) a strong relationship between the city and university. It’s not just about football games — we truly need to work together. Missoula needs services for vulnerable populations and smart public policies. The university needs to educate students and produce research. The challenge is not to change either party but to fund projects that serve both parties.

Finally, we need to stop taking over private businesses just to build a conglomerate. We are here to provide services to all Missoulians, not to take jobs and services away from them. If there is a need that makes common sense and pencils out, then anything is possible. But lately the city seems to be in a “takeover-at-all-costs” mode.

Garden City Monument Services and Garden City Funeral Homes is the perfect example. When the City of Missoula Cemetery (looked into) selling gravestones, they instantly became a competitor. Garden City Monument Services’ and Garden City Funeral Homes’ attorney Rachel Parkin told KGVO, “This is certainly a for-profit enterprise. The meeting minutes are replete with references to the profits that they will garner, what they can do with those profits and things like that. We are looking at using taxpayer money to engage in direct competition with local businesses and it is problematic.”

Editor’s note: the City Cemetery Board recently decided not to advance its attempt to offer grave marker and engraving services in-house, with City Council approval.

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City, County Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Missoulian.