Economic goals to help Missoula grow in next 5 years
|July 31, 2016||View for printing|
While our nation wrestles with its vision of the future, the Missoula Economic Partnership is clear about where we want to go and what it will take to get there.
We want Missoula and Missoula County to be recognized as the best places to live and do business in the Northwest. And we intend to bring that vision to reality through the attraction and growth of primary businesses.
Our aim is high. Our resolve is deep. Our plan is rock solid.
JAMES GRUNKE for the Missoulian
While I am grateful that MEP is attempting to focus on specific industry goals, I'm afraid that the ones they've chosen could easily be the exact same goals as just about every other community of our size. Broad industry goals are not unique goals. Business clusters such as drone research (North Dakota), Photonics/Optics (Bozeman), Specialty foods (Brooklyn), Patient Care (Pittsburgh), Aerospace (Tucson), Athletic sportswear (Portland) etc. are examples of how communities can find, nurture and expand specific niches.
Information technology and data, Biotech and life sciences,Advanced manufacturing, Professional services, Business support services/back office, Creative industries, Warehousing/distribution, and Finance and insurance are very generic and could be the corpus of any economy. They are about as generic as possible so thus are incapable of actually focusing Missoula on what it does best that can help it focus on to develop a unique industry cluster that enables it to rise above the pack in that category. Other states and communities have first conducted "resource and excellence inventory" evaluations to great success.
A local example is Bozeman and its Photonics cluster. There were few, if any, companies in this segment in Bozeman just a few years ago but MSU was doing exceptionally innovative research that it actively converted to commercial enterprises. Now it ranks among the top in the world for research and commercialization in this niche. Here are just a few of the companies that are helping to grow this niche http://www.montanaphotonics.org/members/ The great thing about clusters is that they allow the companies to grow as an industry much easier than an individual company on its own in a community. It also provides a much needed incentive for those entrepreneurs and industry specific talent who are considering moving to the community. What if the job doesn't work out? Where else could I possibly work? Are there other companies in the community where I could work?
What companies do we have in each niche? What talent, both currently working and retired, do we have to tap into? What research is currently underway or planned that could lead to world class companies? What ancillary services do we have available to support specific industries? These are only a few of the questions that we should know in order to develop a true list of the potential of Missoula. How about more specific industry niches like GIS (We've got several companies already in this area), immunomodulatory therapeutics (Inimmune), or ??? (It takes data to make the best decisions.)
I would like to challenge our economic leaders to reevaluate their choices and instead, conduct a comprehensive inventory and data analysis of the strengths that Missoula currently enjoys and try to pinpoint those and then publicize them to attract the talent that will contribute to a more vibrant cluster. As a friend of mine says: "How can you be that red spotted zebra" that stands out from the crowd?
Montana Associated Technology Roundtable
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