Colstrip Unveils Its Economic Diversity Strategy

From left to right: Senator Duane Ankney (SD 20), Jim Atchison (SEMDC), Jullie Emmons (SEMDC), Doug Martins (County Commissioner), Ed Joiner (County Commissioner), Becky Bey (KLJ), Molly Herrington (KLJ)

On Friday, May 19th, the City of Colstrip and Southeastern Montana Development Corporation (SEMDC) held a press conference to unveil the Colstrip Economic Diversification Strategy – a six-month study and public engagement process that looked at opportunities for Colstrip to consider in order to bring balance and increased diversity to the economic drivers of the community while staying true to the core industries of coal mining and power generation that have built Colstrip into the vibrant community that it is today. "Today, as we speak - - - The future of the Colstrip community is being determined and to some degree, the financial health of the state of Montana” said Jim Atchison, Executive Director of SEMDC. “From Washington DC to Washington State, powerful forces are interested in this community, the opportunities and the story that is being unfolded. Most importantly, between the MT Legislature, the Governor & this strategy, these entities have the opportunity to transform Colstrip, while maintaining our status as an economic engine for the state of MT. The challenges and impacts are significant yet we welcome the opportunities to not only stabilize but actually diversify and grow our economic base. This diversification strategy has identified possible pieces of the puzzle that can positively impact our community, our state and our country. Thus we welcome future partnerships with numerous stakeholders that can and will be part of the Solution." The presented strategy was the cooperative effort of local businesses, civic and economic development organizations, and the public. The overall goal was to outline possible economic development projects that will strengthen the community of Colstrip.

Jim Atchison (Director of SEMDC) speaks during the press conference. 5/19/17

"The community was eager to help throughout the duration of this project, and we just really want to thank everyone that participated." said Julie Emmons of SEMDC. The following are the identified goals recommended by the study in order to capitalize on existing and potential resources in the Colstrip area:

Goal 1: Leverage existing industry expertise to drive development around coal, energy, and renewable technology. Goal 2: Support technology and entrepreneurship development to build long-term diversification opportunities for the Colstrip economy. Goal 3: Build a unique manufacturing ecosystem to capitalize on existing industrial sites and infrastructure while creating sustainable, high-paying jobs.

Goal 4: Diversify jobs through the re-deployment of existing human resources to supply high-skill, high-wage jobs that offset the potential loss of positions from the closure of Colstrip Units 1 & 2. Goal 5: Develop and market Colstrip’s exceptional agricultural and outdoor recreation opportunities into new business.

Goal 6: Focus on quality of life incentives to enhance Colstrip’s culture and economic attractiveness for the full life-cycle of residents

Colstrip’s Mayor John Williams had this to say about the strategy: “Thanks to all that were involved in the preparation of the Colstrip Diversity Strategy. Now is the time for us all to come together and take up the challenges and work together using the economic diversification strategy as a road map. Our plan of action is a destination to remain a continuing vibrant community with a quality living environment” "These diversification studies will really add a lot to help build the economy of Southeastern Montana, but if we lose coal, there will be no Eastern Montana. If I could do anything, I would like to see a new clean coal power plant built here. How many jobs can we create with good hours and wages? Job creation has always got to be at the center of every discussion." said Senator Duane Ankney of district 20. The complete press conference video was streamed live on Facebook. You can find it HERE. The complete economic diversification study is available HERE.


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