These two issues combined together also reflect on the lack of affordability in Missoula. One of the other common themes on the campaign trail is how un-business friendly we are. The time and energy it takes to cut through the red tape is agonizing. In order to attract key companies, we need to be business friendly, welcoming them into our town rather than running them off with too many unnecessary rules and regulations. The number of high-paying, high-tech jobs that have skipped right past us to Bozeman is staggering and the same reasons resonate – unfriendly business climate. We need to ensure we have a system that makes licensing and compliance easy; training and networking programs that help service professionals get their businesses up and running, teach them to comply with local established rules that make common sense and are not meant to be punitive, and meet other industry professionals. This also affects the affordable housing issue – if we can’t ensure that employees can find housing within their budgetary limits, companies will take their jobs elsewhere as we have already seen.
Additionally, we need to stop taking over private businesses just to build a conglomerate. We are here to provide services to all Missoulians, not to take jobs and services away from them. If there is a need, it makes common sense, and it pencils out, then anything is possible, but lately the City seems to be in a “takeover-at-all-costs” mode.
What are some quick examples of the City getting into private business?
Garden City Monument Services and Garden City Funeral Homes is the perfect example. When the City of Missoula decided to begin selling gravestones, they instantly became a competitor. Garden City Monument Services and Garden City Funeral Homes’ attorney Rachel Parkin told KGVO, “This is certainly a for profit enterprise. The meeting minutes are replete with references to the profits that they will garner, what they can do with those profits, and things like that. We are looking at using taxpayer money to engage in direct competition with local businesses and it is problematic.” Similarly, once the City acquired Mountain Water, three Missoula citizens who worked for Mountain Water no longer had jobs.