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Work starting on new economic development plan

| March 1, 2007 11:00 PM

Development of a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for Lincoln County will start with local kickoff meetings later this month.

The planning process is designed to bring in new jobs, increase the tax base and foster a more stable and diverse economy. It is also intended to improve the standard of living and quality of life and provide a vehicle to help communities prioritize needs and responsibilities.

The CEDS is a long-range economic development plan required by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for funding assistance. EDA is the largest grant-giving federal agency for economic development

Lincoln County is one of four counties in the Northwest Montana Economic Development District. Flathead, Lake, and Sanders County are also members of the EDD, and they are also involved in this planning process.

The Lincoln County CEDS, when completed, will be combined with the other county plans as part of the four county regional CEDS. The regional CEDS is planned to be completed and submitted to EDA in June for review and approval.

Kootenai River Development Council is providing leadership in the CEDS planning process for southern Lincoln County.

"We can't overstate the importance of the CEDS to Lincoln County" said KRDC executive director Paul Rumelhart. "The CEDS is our road map for future development and quality job creation. We strongly encourage the public to be involved in this planning process, as it is essential we identify and plan for all social and economic needs we anticipate in the next five years."

KRDC is currently seeking funding through EDA to make infrastructure improvements to the Kootenai Industrial District Business Park. KRDC is seeking $1.5 million out of the $2.5 million needed for improvements from EDA.

"By keeping our CEDS plan up to date, we remain eligible for EDA funding," Rumelhart said. "But the CEDS is much more important than just for EDA funding."

Most public and private grant providers today want grant seekers to demonstrate to them that their need and funding request was identified and planned for through a public process. The CEDS fits these criteria and provides a foundation for all future funding requests.

The CEDS planning process will involve a series of meetings requesting the involvement of the public throughout. The first meetings will concentrate on the identification of economic strengths and challenges. Issues will be grouped into categories such as health care, housing and infrastructure, and they will then go through an in-depth analysis followed by the development of a plan of action addressing each category.

Kickoff meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 13, at the Memorial Center in Libby and Thursday, March 15, at the fire hall in Troy. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m.