Tobacco Valley EDC recognizes, plans for continued growth

Is Eureka growing? To answer that question, Mike Henry reviewed data spanning two decades for Lincoln Electric. Mike is the general manager of the co-op as well as president of the Tobacco Valley Economic Development Council. To no one’s surprise, the answer is: Yes, Eureka and the Tobacco Valley continue to grow. Over the last 10 years, Lincoln Electric lines have increased by an average of 3.7 percent.
And Mike-as well as other EDC member, see that growth continuing, with or without any major development project.

That brings up a second important question: What’s the vision for the Tobacco Valley five, 10 or even 20 years from now?
In an effort to address the question of growth at home, the EDC will continue work on its comprehensive plan between now and October.
Involvement is crucial, Mike pointed out during the council’s May meeting. To facilitate public involvement, EDC member will visit with business representatives throughout town as well as conduct several public meetings on its strategic plan.

That plan, now being revised, is expected to develop four or five key points. Tourism is an example. What can the community do-aided by the EDC-to further attract visitors to the area?
Business expansion and retention is another key component. The EDC wants to develop a firm strategy for helping businesses already here to continue and expand.
Stay tuned. You’ll be hearing more.

Gary Blaz, School Superintendent, reported good news on the education front. Through a cooperative project, a VisionNet lab is up and running at the Lincoln County Campus. FVCC contributed the $8,000 annual fee to go online with interactive conferencing. Eureka already has a lab at the high school. "We’re excited about that," Gary said, adding the InterBel’s Randy Wilson played a key role in getting the connection between Libby and Eureka.

As you might have guessed by this month’s column, the EDC has a new secretary-me. I’ve taken over for Carol Miller, who’s now concentrating her efforts on promoting tourism. It will remain the EDC’s goal to let the community know what the council is working on. Please let us know if you have any comments or concerns.

The Riverwalk fund-raiser was a huge success despite some rainy weather in mid-May. Organizers now hope to have a draft plan to the state by mid-September with the $202,000 project going to bid some time after that. Buck Schermerhorn called it "an aggressive schedule," but backers are hoping to see the park in place next summer.

The Tobacco Valley Economic Development Council took a break for the month of July. Our last meeting was June 13 with guests SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and the Creative Arts Center.
Chairman, Mike Henry reported that the Border Patrol has confirmed nine new Border Patrol agents and their families will be coming to the Tobacco Valley.

Our Education representative, School Superintendent, Gary Blaz reported the LCC VisionNet install successful. The School Building Advisory Committee will conduct presentations throughout the Tobacco Valley. Representing Eureka Rural Development Partners, I am assisting the committee in gathering grant opportunities, updating demographics and grant writing.

Our community enhancement representative, Mike Justus, reported that the 4-H club is growing 60 trees to donate to the community hedge on the ball field.
The industrial park representative, Sherman Lee, informed the council that the old county airport property survey information has been gathered and land contours are next in the process of determining property layout. As reported earlier by the chairman, the Border Patrol will be looking for building space.

The Lincoln County Economic Development Council has begun the Business Expansion And Retention Program and is gathering and updating the list of businesses for Lincoln County.
Currently the county commissioners are working with the state tax issues and through the budgeting process will try to alleviate tax pressures locally. Baseball parks are preparing for concession and rest room updates. The International Peace Park is preparing for irrigation and a perennial bed installation.

Karin Lamb reported that the Creative Arts Center is currently expanding. The dance program is the bulk of the activities held at the CAC. One hundred-fifty youth per week are attending the CAC during the school year. Requests for drama and art classes for both adults and youth have determined the need for the expansion. The interest to form a local artist guild has spurred ideas about a summer gallery of local artists to occupy the building while the school year curriculum is not operating. The CAC is currently planning a more thorough public relations plan. The building expansion project requires funding of $200,000.00. Karin reported that $25,000.00 more is needed to break ground and that the CAC is hoping to campaign for local dollars.

Steve Elm gave a presentation of services available through SCORE. There are 12,000 counselors across the USA affiliated with SCORE. The SCORE office located in the First Interstate Bank in Kalispell supports Flathead, Lincoln and Sanders Counties. SCORE has no lending capabilities but they do offer free of charge business counseling and job development. SCORE works together with the Small Business Center and NW Human Resource Center in Kalispell and is a great asset utilized by local businesses and Eureka Rural Development Partners.

The Moosehorn Club requested and received a letter of support for their application for the Cultural Trust Fund. The funds would be used to add a well, plumbing, fencing and new paint to the Pinkham Creek Schoolhouse.

Kim Laub is secretary of the Tobacco Valley Economic Development Council. You can reach her at 297-7374 or [email protected]

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