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.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Things I learned revisited

I was about to write a comment back to Rachel on her comment to my last post when I realized I could make a whole post of its own about it. (Hi Rachel! Thanks for making me think about this a little more. And thanks for, well, anyway…) Basically Rachel expressed that my three bits of knowledge gained the other week were somehow negative. I can see how they can be construed that way but I was putting them out there as little factoids without trying to speak to their worth. Just sayin'.

So nearly three percent of Flathead county property owners are Californians. That nothing. Only 87% of Flathead county's tax receipts get mailed to Flathead county anyway. Flathead property owners also hail from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Texas, Wyoming, the east coast and many points in between. Close to 3% of them are international. Watch out, the Canadians are coming. What does this mean to me? That Montanans may think they live in small towns and have this beautiful corner of the world to themselves but the fact is we are part of the global economy here and it is not just our neighbors and coworkers that are shopping for property. Home buyers and sellers beware, you are competing with dollars from some really nutso property markets like they have in California. And when those Californians look at a $200,000 house here in Montana they are not saying to themselves "Wow, I can't believe how high property values are getting" like the locals are. They are saying "Holy Crap! That is the greatest, cheapest bargain on property I have seen in eight years. I better jump on that."

The ripple effect from that leads us to point number two. Property values are going up. Like mad they are going up. I guess this could be bad for Joe Sixpack Montanan that wants a piece of this action but it keeps getting more out of reach each year. For those who do own property this is a good thing. I don't know of a bank account in the world that offers 18% interest. But property grows like that. My advice to Joe Sixpack Montanan, take a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. Jump on it or lose out. The Californians aren't waiting.

The ripples don't stop there though. For Joe Sixpack Montanan and his lovely family to be able to afford a house in Montana he is going to need a bigger paycheck, a more Californian paycheck. Bigger paychecks are hard to come by. Bigger paychecks put a hurtin' on employers and when employers get squeezed they have to pass the squeeze on to consumers. I see an ugly cycle starting here. I am not enough of an economist to be able to predict where this will lead, but it does not look pretty for the traditional get away from it all Montanan. Like it or not the global economy is in this state to stay. I am not going to completely rule out Montana style throwing a wrench in the works. The way I see it, one of two things could happen. Montanans being a friendly bunch will continue to welcome the outsiders until one day they wake up and can't recognize the communities they have lived in for so long. Or we will start to see some "Californian go home" bumper stickers and other subtle ways of fighting for a more traditional Montana. No matter what Montana is changing.

As a newcomer here I suppose you could say I am part of the change. I have come marching into this state to pursue an opportunity bringing with me some big city money and big city notions of how life ought to be lived. I have been pretty disappointed here with the lack of decent ethnic food, poor tastes in music, general lack of cultural outlets. I see a booming Montana as an opportunity to get more of what I want and like out of my life here. Does that conflict with Montana style? Probably.

My third point is only tangentially related to all this. My previous career was as a hep computer geek internet meister. Lots of good money to be had in that field. If I had stuck with chasing it I would have scored a healthy slice of that pie. But you know what, cubicle life can crush a soul. I do not believe that getting rich is the point to being here on this planet. There is more to life than money. I could have chosen to make good money while sitting in a cube, playing corporate ladder and office politics games. Answering to others, making someone else's problems a high priority in my life. Instead I chose to get out from under all that, to stop spending time with soul crushing people that are pursuing a buck instead of happiness. I chose to quit rat racing and instead follow an opportunity to be my own boss. Sure, I gave up some good money to do it, but I am much happier in my new lifestyle. My problems are my own and I get the joy of having the final say over the quality of 'product' I produce. I guess you could say I spent over $20,000 on not having to answer to the man. What do you know, I'm feeling more Montanan every day.

Jones, I absolutely love you!

I completely see how our economy and landscape are changing due to "outside" influences buying land, pushing property values and housing costs out of the range of little Joe Schmoe Montana. In a way Montana seems to be going to the highest bidder.

But in spite of that we do still have a quality of life that is unique (most of the people I know who have never been here just can't understand) and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Our pace is a little slower and I love the fact that when you walk down the street, from Whitefish to Hardin you are greeted with smiles and hello's. I have traveled a lot and haven't found that anywhere else.

As for you choosing to break out of your cubicle and sacrifice income for the sake of the creative process and your own happiness and well being...well darlin' that just makes me crush on you a little bit more and respect you a hell of a lot more!
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