Economic diversity over focus on tourism

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

To the editor,

The events of the past two months should be a wake-up call to state and local officials of the dangers of basing so much of the economy in Southwestern Montana on tourism, recreation, and the service sector businesses that rely on those industries. As we have all witnessed, when something happens to adversely affect the ability of people to move freely around the country, and even the local community, it has devastating effects on the livelihoods of many people.

I hear local leaders discussing the need to develop plans to get tourism in our area going again. I would suggest that we would all be better served if they focused more on developing a more broad-based economy that was not dependant on the ability, and willingness, of people coming here to spend their money.

Agriculture, a significant player in the local economy, has always provided commodities that are essential to the survival of people. Perhaps we would be better served if future economic development efforts were put into finding businesses that could add value to the agricultural outputs of the area and which would be considered as essential. Those businesses should then be encouraged, and maybe even given some incentives, to set up operations here. That way when the next virus comes our way, which is being predicted by experts already, then local people would still have jobs that make products that are needed by folks, instead of being in businesses that are closed because people are prevented from coming here to partake in tourist and recreational activities.

We do not need more tourism. We need a more broad-based and diverse economy that will more resilient to the adverse the economic effects of the next pandemic.

Dale J. McKnight