Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Montana Style part three - opportunity

Traveling through this state over the past several years I have been struck with how much opportunity is here. The I-90 corridor across the state is ripe with four diverse cities, a plethora of smaller communities, two universities, has easy access to shipping and transportation. Beautifully situated about midway between Portland and Seattle to the west and St. Paul and the Mississippi shipping corridor to the east. Compared to other parts of the country, real estate is cheap and the cost of living is low. In many ways I am surprised that businesses from all across the country aren't stampeding to take advantage of Montana. Having lived here I am starting to understand better why this is not happening. Again, Montana style plays a part.

On a lot of levels I smell economic booms and growth around here. I see help wanted signs everywhere I go. I have problems staffing my own business. I see people and money coming into the state from California and elsewhere. I see real estate prices rising. But looking deeper I see that the boom is not entirely healthy. Most of those help wanted signs are for service jobs that do not require education or skills. The influx of people is mostly to recreation areas. Much of the rising real estate prices are being caused by outsiders that don't understand local value and bearing influence on the market. Many locals are being priced out of their own communities. High school kids are still looking forward to the day they can get out of this state to a place where there are more opportunities.

Montana growth still has lots of positive potential. If the influx of outsiders could bring with them more business that could be planted here and grow here. Things like technology, publishing, manufacturing, national and international corporations could take advantage of the easy access to both east and west. This would create jobs and incentives for auxiliary business. Our universities would see increased demand, our children would have opportunities to stay for. But before we get all carried away with the details of how to make this happen we should stop and acknowledge Montana style.

Not knowing much about recent history of Montana politics I can only suspect that proposals to these ends have already been made in the various towns, jurisdictions and governments. I suspect the biggest reason we are not already booming into a major international hub of commerce and culture is that the collective voice of Montanans echo with Montana style. This is a place where get-away-from-it-all-ness is valued and cherished and runs counter to the very idea that we should be a major hub of anything. Montanans shy away from the problems that large cities and crowded spaces deal with daily and instead we choose simpler lifestyles. Then there are the values of self sufficiency. We should not have to import the businesses and technologies and people and money that this boom would require because as a self sufficient state we should have what we need right here. It may just take a little longer for us to build for ourselves rather than buy from elsewhere. Montana style is likely to reject growth or outside influence that only uses a part of Montana. Those that only want the recreation or the mining or the natural resources but don't care for the people or the schools or the open space. Artists and musicians and cultural elite's that come here to paint our scenery or bring us some big city culture without supporting, or even acknowledging our own artists and creators. Business that move in needing only laborers and not leaders. Montana has great potential in many areas but Montana style exerts a powerful and subtle force on how that potential can be achieved.

Montana style can be a double edged sword, taking away some opportunities in exchange for its values. As much as I want to live where there is city excitement and booming prosperity I am coming to realize that Montana will not be made over in my image. We have been blessed with a corner of the world that is beautiful and populated with some simple values missing from other places. Self sufficiency, the peace of being away from it all, more neighborly and more freedom. I think I have only begun to understand what Montana really is and what makes it different from any other place I have ever lived. I have more to learn here, more to do here, and I need to spend more time cherishing Montana style.