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Bill aiming to boost economic development in Montana cities gets hearing

Posted at 2:41 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 18:03:23-04

HELENA- A new economic development concept for Montana called 406 Impact Districts drew mixed reviews at a legislative committee hearing Thursday.

It was the first hearing of Senate Bill 340, a bill to attract private investment into Montana. The bill is an offshoot of the Billings-driven One Big Sky District but received support from Bozeman, Missoula and Great Falls at the Senate Taxation Committee hearing.

The bill drew opposition from some developers and legislators. Ronda Wiggers of Great Falls said the bill appears to use taxpayer dollars to compete with existing businesses, something that’s traditionally been frowned upon in Montana.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Roger Webb of Billings, said this is a business plan with opportunity.

Supporters say It’s something different, and Montana needs a new economic development option.

Steve Arveschoug of Billings-based Big Sky Economic Development, one of several economic development groups from the state pushing for the 406 impact districts, says the bill is important for the future of Billings.

“I think that if we had a tool like this it would give us a real strong position to attract private investment,” Arveschoug said after returning home from Helena. “And if we are strategic about where and how we invest in our civic core with what kind of civic infrastructure, we are going to be a great community in the future as far as attracting and retaining talent.”

Reporting by Russ Riesinger and Jon Stepanek for MTN News