How hiking, fishing, Glacier Park, and Flathead Lake factor into the economic development question

Oct 25, 2013

Entrance at West Glacier.
Credit Katrin Frye

“This is a really good place to recruit to,” Dr. A. Craig Eddy works as the Chief Medical Officer at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, and is in charge of recruiting.

Eddy said the Flathead is a great place, but not because of the salary.

“One of the first talks I have with every physician who comes through on a recruiting tour is; I tell them that you will not get rich here,” Eddy said salaries tend to be in the mid-range for any given specialty. He tells recruits that though they won’t become millionaires working in healthcare in Kalispell, MT, they’ll make a good income, be able to send their kids to college, and have a great quality of life.

He said the three things important to recruiting include the quality of the facilities, the caliber of the colleagues, and location. National Parks Conservation Association Program Manager Michael Jamison says the importance of location is something they’re hearing repeatedly.

“We asked all the Chamber of Commerce members all throughout the Crown of the Continent; Missoula up to Banff, east side and west side, why they choose to do business here. And we expected to get quite a bit of mention about tax structure and market shares and transportation hubs. But, instead what we got was an earful about hunting and fishing and hiking,” Jamison said.

This conversation about economic development was highlighted at a recent forum bringing together entrepreneurs and economic development professionals from across the area, and beyond.

Jamison says the National Parks Conservation Association’s mission is to protect and enhance national parks for future generations. It’s involved in this because Parks are huge economic drivers.

He says this recent forum is part of a bigger conversation about the economy of the “New West”.

“Part of what makes us who we are is our heritage of timber and mining and ag and other traditional industries. That’s the heritage we own, and that’s the heritage we don’t want to lose. But, at the same time, we need to diversify our economy, put our eggs in many, many, many, more baskets,” Jamison said the question is how to expand and diversify the economy while maintaining that heritage.

Many economic development ventures focus on making the area more accessible either through infrastructure improvements like high speed internet, more and cheaper air travel, and making the area attractive for investment through the tax structure.

The conservation element of this asks to also factor in open space, public land, and clean air and water as also important in bringing people and investment into the local economy.