Phil Faccenda made reference to it in his very good piece yesterday, and we have received a number of tips about it recently… but we’re still grappling with some of the comments made by Great Falls’ economic development chief, Brett Doney, at the Jan. 3 City Commission meeting. Most glaringly, Doney said that Great Falls lost “707 net jobs” in 2016.
And frankly, these numbers scare the hell out of me.
We’ve lost the equivalent in the last couple of years in the City more than the nation lost in the Great Recession.
Doney is clearly alarmed:
I don’t have any prescriptions for you, I just want to say that I have never in my 32 years in economic development seen numbers as scary as these, and we need to continue to work together to address them.
To be fair, Doney also cited strong growth in manufacturing (despite the City’s “F you” to Calumet), among other positive happenings. Speaking under the Public Hearing portion of the Commission agenda, a discussion on CDBG funds, he billed himself as otherwise a “cheerleader” for Great Falls, which is true. Doney and the GFDA do excellent work in this regard. (You can read the latest GFDA newsletter and sign up to receive it here.)
Two days before Doney’s appearance before the Commission, on New Year’s Day, the Tribune ran glowing, above-the-fold coverage about a resurgent development sector in Great Falls. The reader is left with the distinct impression of a soaring Great Falls economy.
So, what gives? Construction is one thing, and an area in which Great Falls is strong, but aren’t jobs also an important metric when evaluating the economic health of a community? How well are we really doing, and more importantly, how should our community address this issue?
We appreciate Doney’s candor. After all, the first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge that there is one.