Last week the U.S. Census Bureau report revealed some surprising information about county population growth in Montana between 2010 and 2018. It’s not only surprising, but for Cascade County it’s troubling.
Looking at this data I’m reminded of the story of the Three Bears.
TOO HOT! – Gallatin County (Bozeman/Belgrade area) grew by 22,363 people, or 25%.
TOO COLD! – Cascade County (Great Falls area) grew by 320 people, or 0.4%.
JUST RIGHT? – The Helena, Missoula and Billings areas grew by a little over 8% each.
I think most of us Great Fallsians would agree that we don’t want 25% growth or the rapid boom development Bozeman is experiencing, even though it has real advantages. But I don’t think we should be celebrating, or even accepting, a measly 0.4% percent growth rate either.
In fact we should be alarmed that we grew by only 320 people since 2010. Very alarmed. Heck, even the Butte area more than doubled our population growth.
We need more people and “new blood” in Great Falls/Cascade County. It’s that simple. Here’s why:
- Adding population means we grow our workforce – something almost every local economic development analyst and civic leader recognizes as the number one need for Great Falls.
- New people are new customers for local businesses.
- An expanding population results in an expanding tax base which results in more revenue for infrastructure, schools, and parks.
- A stagnant population means higher local taxes because of the rising costs of infrastructure, schools, and parks.
So, why are people flocking to the other counties and cities in Montana but not ours?
Please don’t try to palm off the oft-heard, phony answer that “It’s because we a have a negative narrative and we’re not thinking positively enough in Great Falls”. No, that’s not the reason.
We need to address the reasons behind the “negative narrative” and lack of enthusiasm and optimism for our community. Here are a few goals that we should bring a sense of urgency to achieving and that speak directly to the reasons Great Falls/Cascade County continues to struggle to remain stagnant.
- We will earn the reputation of having the most honest, ethical and transparent city/county government and public officials in the state.
- We will become known as the most business and jobs friendly community in the state, with a motto of “How Can We Help You Succeed”, not “You Can’t Do That”.
- We will be the safest community in the state.
- We will have a consensus vision and a plan of action for measured growth and prosperity over time.
- We will encourage new ideas, innovation and full participation by ALL of our citizens.
Stay tuned as I and others begin to flesh out some of these ideas and goals. We can do it, we can achieve JUST RIGHT!