Monday, November 29, 2021

Flathead benefited from Meerkatz's business acumen

| July 8, 2021 12:00 AM

There’s been a changing of the guard at Montana West Economic Development, where retiring President and CEO Jerry Meerkatz has passed the baton to Christy Cummings Dawson.

Cummings Dawson has served as MWED’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center adviser for the past two years, and is well-poised to pick up where Meerkatz left off.

Meerkatz brought a lot to the table when he joined the MWED staff in 2016, with 35 years of experience managing large and small tech companies across North America. That knowledge no doubt buoyed him as he guided MWED and the Flathead County Economic Development Authority through the creation of the Glacier Rail Park. The development of the industrial park made it possible to relocate downtown rail-served businesses, thus enabling the Kalispell Parkline Trail to take shape this year on the railroad bed that traversed the downtown core.

It’s fitting that Meerkatz’s career started and ended in the Flathead Valley. A 1976 Flathead graduate, Meerkatz worked for a time at automotive shops in Kalispell and even spent a summer at Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. before heading off to college and a career in the business world.

Our community is better off because of Meerkatz’s efforts, and we’re appreciative of all he gave to create business opportunities and improve the quality of life here at home.

A NEW easement proposed near Libby has the potential to be a major victory for open space advocates, outdoor enthusiasts and Montana’s forest products industry.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced last week that it hopes to purchase a conservation easement on more than 27,000 acres of Stimson Lumber land in Lincoln County. Terms of the deal would permanently protect the land from future development and safeguard important wildlife habitat, while allowing Stimson to continue harvesting timber to supply nearby mills. Meanwhile, hunting, fishing and other recreational activities would also be allowed to continue in perpetuity.

Count that as a trifecta of wins for Lincoln County.

Similar easements in Northwest Montana — such as the Haskill Basin deal between the city of Whitefish, F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber — have proven to be successful in achieving this delicate balance of preserving open space and fostering recreation while allowing forestry work to thrive.

Learn more about the proposal at a July 14 public hearing at Libby City Hall.