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County renews pledge to economic development district

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| October 20, 2009 12:00 AM

The county board of commissioners agreed during Tuesday’s meeting to renew its commitment as a member of the Northwest Montana Economic Development District for another year starting in January 2010.

Commissioners also voted to grant $1,366 of matching funds to support the administrative cost of running the district’s office, located in Libby, from October to December. The district’s other participants – Flathead, Sanders and Lake counties – are expected to pledge an equal amount.   

Paul Rumelhart, president of the district’s board, and Jennifer Nelson, the district’s regional planner, informed commissioners of a significant grant opportunity available to the district through the federal Economic Development Administration.

The EDA has allocated $36 million for the economic development of communities that have lost business due to increased imports. Seven western Montana counties, including the four in the district, are eligible to apply.

Rumelhart pointed out that the district must first create a strategic plan to formalize the group’s goals and desires.

“We need to put together a real good plan on what needs to be done,” Rumelhart said, “in order to assist these workers that have been affected.”

Much of the planning required for the grant proposal was completed when the district formed. 

“That comes up time and time again how beneficial it is to have that groundwork,” commissioner John Konzen pointed out.

Rumelhart said that John Rogers, head of EDA’s Montana regional office in Helena, suggested that the district apply for three projects per county with a cost for each in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million. That would allow one project per commissioner district in each county. 

The EDA asks for 5 percent in matching funds, which can be covered by in-kind contributions such as land and labor.

“It’s the least match I’ve ever seen on any federal project that’s ever come out,” Rumelhart said. “… Very, very seldom do you get this opportunity.”

Grants can be used for infrastructure improvement such as site acquisition, site preparation, building rehabilitation and equipping facilities.

Rumelhart suggested, with nods from commissioners, that Lincoln County’s grant proposals relate to the Tobacco Valley Industrial Park in Eureka, Kootenai Business Park Industrial District in Libby and Chapel Cedar mill in Troy.