An Invitation To Southeastern Montana Economic Development Corporation

In 2013, the Southeastern Montana Economic Development Council (SMEDC) held seven community meetings in Ashland, Colstrip, Hysham, Miles City, Broadus, Lame Deer and Forsyth to get community input on developing a comprehensive economic development plan and assess the state of those communities. They also developed an online survey to reach people that wanted to contribute but couldn't attend an in-person meeting. Each meeting was based on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and a brainstorming session for proposed projects. In a total of seven community meetings they had 113 people attend. Total.  This was more than they had ever had in seven years of community meetings. Six people filled out their online survey.  A total of 119 people out of a total population of 22,000 gave them feedback on their economic strategy and plan. That is .005% of the total population.  From what I can tell from their meeting reports, it seems like about three people came to the Lame Deer meeting. Jeff Bridges Let's take a step back and think about this for a second. If my job was to develop a regional economic plan and I was getting paid mostly out of taxpayer dollars and I only got 113 people to attend my meetings, I would hope someone would have the good sense to fire me. Hell, I'd fire myself.

My Invitation To Southeastern Montana Economic Development Council:

I have some experience organizing community meetings. If you want to do it right and have a good turnout it takes quite a bit of planning and forethought. I would love to help you organize a meeting on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation so you could come listen to the strengths, challenges and opportunities that people are facing with small business development, healthcare, education, infrastructure and the countless other issues facing the community. You could meet some folks that want to start businesses but need some technical assistance. You could meet people that you would never meet in the tribal government building. My constant frustration is that when our elected leaders, decision makers and agency staff come to Lame Deer, they only stay within the bounds of the tribal government. They very rarely look beyond the formal structures and try to meet directly with members of the community. Here is a short summary of what the folks at SMEDC may have missed in the past couple years. This is just a small handful of the most notable events where you could come and talk to folks and find out where they need some assistance from a publicly funded organization like yours. It's ok that we don't agree on the Otter Creek coal tracts or Tongue River Railroad because, in reality, even if those projects did get built (which I'm pretty sure they won't) they will be years and years away from any movement. People need help now. People want renewable energy now. Small scale renewable energy and energy efficiency work creates jobs, is fairly inexpensive and will help people reduce the amount of money they spend on their electricity bills. Let's do that instead of wasting time trying to help an out of state corporation come dig up eastern Montana and ship it to Asia. You need to do real work that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners on the Reservation because, in the end, fossil fuel development is always temporary. It will always end. If you have a mind to think generationally there is a lot of work to do and it isn't in boardrooms or office buildings. It is on the ground. It is hard. It demands dedication and the belief that the people in southeastern Montana are worth more than the minerals beneath their feet. And to be honest, I don't think a publicly funded non-profit organization should be lobbying for out of state corporations and coal companies. You should be lobbying for the people that live there. I know that in your economic development paradigm, it's the same thing, but it's not. It's not at all.                    

One Comment on “An Invitation To Southeastern Montana Economic Development Corporation

  1. Problem is, they have these meetings regularly. They are dull and repetitive and if I never have to attend another SWOT program that repeats the same damn thing we said last year and the year before that and the year before that, it will be too soon.
    That’s the biggest problem. They are held either every year or every other year and every single one is exactly the same as last year. I used to go to them but after five or six identical meetings, I lost interest.
    If they were to try a new format (and I suspect they can’t due to grant requirements) maybe people would go. But as it is, those are decent attendance numbers. It’s just that no one really cares and/or they are SICK of that stupid SWOT thing.

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