The economic state of Montana is behind when it comes to competition with the rest of the nation. For someone who is comfortable in their position, this may not be a concern, but to those who are looking to improve their economic status, quality of life, or looking for more opportunities, this can be a huge challenge to overcome. It is a difficult hurdle to cross for many of our fellow residents.
I look at a few factors that contribute to this problem. First, I want to talk about the elephant in the room. This obvious economic power against us is all of the outside sources investing in real estate in Montana. I’ve done some research in calling around to title companies and speaking with Realtors and real-estate brokers and have found some common denominators when I asked the following questions. The first question I asked was “Who is buying more property in Montana? Local Montanans or outside buyers?” I have gotten the common answer that it seems to be even across the board. Then I followed that question up with, “Of these sales, who is buying more premium properties in the state?” The response that I frequently received was that outside buyers are making these purchase more than local Montanans.
This is an indicator of how uncompetitive we are financially. This is an example of the exploitation Montana has faced all through its documented history. We have gone from our natural resources being exploited to now our own people. I want to change that. I’ve read newspaper articles and had conversations from people across the state and it seems that current leadership isn’t sure how to address this challenge. My simple answer to this would be to put the citizens in a position to where they are competitive in order to stop the exploitation. But still the question is raised, “How do we do this?”. I believe that being in this exploited position gives us the upperhand to do something about it.
Montana has few opportunities for our educated. This means that after graduation they fall into a position where a degree is not required, or they move somewhere that they have more opportunity to pay off their student debt. It makes no sense to continue to invest in our university system or continue to vote in favor of the mil 6 levy if our investments are not benefiting ourselves. We are losing highly qualified people and millions of dollars to other locations because we lack the opportunity they need to survive. Not to mention it is detrimental to our own economic development. The ones who would stay here and take a lower paying job would be considered “under employed since their skills and talents are not being used where they are invested.
Now let’s compare wages for a moment. According to NurseSalaryGuide.net nurses in Montana average about $66,000 annually. Nurses in New York City average about $83,000 annually. That is a $17,000 difference per year, in just this field. That kind of income will go much farther in Montana than it will in New York City, but shouldn’t the people who live in Montana be afforded the same opportunity to live a comfortable, stable life?
Then the cycle of tax computations come into play with home values increasing and the next thing you know the people of Montana are being taxed more than they can afford. But what if the state stepped in and implemented some policies to give Montanans more economic opportunity and protect the people from further exploitation?
My resolution is a multiple angle attack on stabilizing the economy. First, of all we need a market for the educated and trained to go to work in. Secondly, we need policies that keep some money from outside sales in the state, and policies that incentives home rentals for “snowbird” home owners who eat up our supply of homes and do not contribute to the community and also I envision a state level policy similar to Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act.
I envision this “work market” as I call it, to be highly technical, highly advanced, and equal to, or greater than what other states have for jobs, technology, people, skills, talents and minds. I know that is a tall order, but I know that we can achieve it.
Here is how. Given the authority, I will go to other entities and invite them into the state in different municipalities. Example: I believe that Missoula is a great place for an office for Facebook, or an Amazon store and warehouse. I would approach the leadership of these companies and ask them to invest in Montana. I would also work to provide them with the incentives to invest in Montana.
One large obstacle that I see in this plan already is local leadership in cities across the state. Will they accept a large company shifting the status quo in their jurisdictions? If they reject the investment than there is other cities in the state that could benefit from these said investments. How about asking NASA to invest in Montana? Boeing? Lockheed Martin? Institutions of greater research capacity? What about diverse companies from outside our nation’s borders? What about asking Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler to build a plant or two in Montana? There are far more entities out there with missions that Montana can accommodate and if given the authority to do so, I am willing to approach them and develop the relationship and means necessary to get them invested into Montana.
Now a huge down side to this would be that more outsiders move here. One stipulation that I would require, to correct this, is that after the entity is established that each position be forfeited to a Montanan who is qualified for the position and has lived here for at least five consecutive years. Of course the residency requirement can be adjusted but the idea is to get the people into the positions that they are qualified for.
Peter Ziehli is a Republican candidate for Montana governor in the 2020 election. He lives in Kalispell.