BILLINGS- It’s a development plan that proponents say could boost the entire economy of Billings and the state of Montana for decades to come.
If the proposed One Big Sky development plan is to ever get off the ground, however, it will need support from city, county, and state as well as the private sector.
State Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, says he has been working on a bill that could provide the necessary state support for the project.
“It’s a very unique concept. I mean you talk about out of the box. It’s fascinating,” says Webb.
State Sen. Roger Webb. MTN News
Webb believes the project could grow the state’s general fund almost overnight, but says the main issue is finding a way to implement it.
“It actually requires a $125 million statutory appropriation. We don’t have $125 million bucks, but remember it is payable over 30 years so you are talking aggregated of four million dollars a year, which- that’s doable,” he said.
The comprehensive development plan’s goals are to make Billings a more attractive destination for tourists and conventions with a state-of-the-art convention center and more urban living and shopping destinations. They also hope to take advantage of the city’s medical hub and education institutions. Proponents say it would attract new businesses, create new jobs, and grow the tax base for the entire state.
Webb says they have been working to find a way to be creative in the financial arena.
“We have a very defined area. Can I take the actual corporate tax and income tax out of that defined unit and put it in a special revenue account to be used for special payments against that $125 million—that’s what we are trying to find out if we can legally do,” he said.
Webb believes One Big Sky could be huge for the state, but says it might be a challenge to get other legislators from across the rest of the state onboard. A bill is currently in drafting and Webb hopes to get it on the floor before the session is over.
“It will get a hearing. I want it on the Senate floor because I want my colleagues to say, hey this is great or what are you doing? It’s a complicated bill it’s going to catch some people by surprise,” he said.
Reporting by Russ Riesinger for MTN News