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MEP to pitch Missoula business opportunities at Atlanta showcase

By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT

Members of the Missoula Economic Partnership and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will set off for Georgia next week to promote the city’s unique business opportunities to potential new industries.

The cities of Billings, Great Falls and Bozeman will also join the trip in an effort to market their own communities to Southern-based companies looking to expand into Western markets.

“We’re meeting with site selectors who want to learn about the opportunities in Montana,” said James Grunke, president and CEO of the Missoula Economic Partnership. “They really like the fact that they’re getting all this information at one time, with the appearance that our communities are cooperating.”

Grunke said the site selectors represent industries looking to expand into new markets. While most industries consider Pacific Coast states when expansion comes to mind, Grunke said, pitching to interested site selectors helps increase Missoula’s profile.

“We like the opportunity of telling our story,” Grunke said. “One of the outcomes we’d like to have as a result of this is to bring someone here as the next step and take some time learning about Missoula. It’s a good strategy for attracting industry.”

MEP and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development have met with similar site selectors in Dallas and Chicago. As is customary, representatives of the participating cities bring home-grown items that represent their communities.

In Missoula, that includes spirits from local distilleries, along with demographic information and data describing the city’s workforce.

“In terms of our formal presentation, we only have five minutes to highlight our community,” said Jenn Ewan, vice president of MEP. “A lot of it is flashing images, the beautiful place we live. But it’s also stating that it’s a great place to do business. Each of our presentations are different because we each represent different sectors.”

Grunke compared the pitch as a first date. As in most first dates, he said, the hope is to get a second encounter. In the business world, that means getting industry officials to take the next step and make a personal visit to Missoula.

“We’re trying to make that introduction,” Grunke said. “Unless a company says to specifically look at the Intermountain West or Montana, they’re not going to do so. The competition is stiff, so what we have to do is differentiate.”