Developers check out Missoula during showcase


MISSOULA, Mont. - Developers from five states took a look at Missoula Monday. It was a showcase to give potential investors an idea of what the city has to offer.

Mayor John Engen and the Missoula Economic Partnership (MEP) hosted the event, and took developers on a tour of locations.

"The city has been outstanding at providing support and encouragement and providing us information," said Boise developer Larry Leasure.

Leasure was one of 20 developers in who participated in the showcase. The group saw places like South Crossing and Silver Park that have already been developed, as well as areas that still need some work, like near the corner of Scott Street and Rodgers Street.

"You look at this and you say 'Wow, what do we do here?' And we see there's now nothing but upside out here," said MEP CEO James Grunke.

Grunke says the space on Scott and Rodgers could be used for retail, housing or industrial sites, and it fits within MEP's plan. The partnership outlined its 5-year plan at the end of 2011. It includes creating 2,500 new jobs with a sustainable wage of $37,000 a year, a strategy to increase capital investment by $150,000 and encourage 25 'best-fit' companies to relocate to Missoula.

"We're going to do our first benchmark report later this summer to give us a report of where we're at, so at the end of 3 years," Grunke said. "Things look very positive."

Engen was also optimistic. "We've blown the startup numbers out of the water; we've blown the existing business visits out of the water, and we've blown the capital investment out of the water."

He admits they might miss the mark on the goal for jobs.

"I'm not sure we're going to meet that 2,500 goal at the end of 5 years, but it's not going to be for lack of trying," Engen said. "Because we're laying all this foundation through these other programs I think we're certain to hit that eventually."

There are still 2 years to go in the 5-year plan, and developers think plans like the showcase are a start.

"Not only on the short term for construction jobs, which is obviously a major element," Leasure said. "All of your retailers and or other uses that come in this market, industrial, those are all job creation."

Grunke said numbers will be released later this summer or early fall on where the partnership stands with the goals. An investor breakfast meeting is planned for Friday.