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Setting the course for the 2019-20 fiscal year, Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Big Sky Economic Development Corporation (EDC) boards approved strategic priorities for their agencies during their meeting in May.

They will continue their focus on numerous projects, already in the pipeline, such as workforce development, the advancement of the TEDD in Lockwood and One Big Sky District Development. But, assuming more of the spotlight, in the coming year, will be the development of a business incubator in collaboration with Zoot Enterprises, MSU-Billings and Rocky Mountain College. The joint boards approved a business model and plan for the business incubator, during their monthly meeting.

The county economic development agency selected five top priorities, based upon the results of a survey of 21 EDA/EDC board members about the issues and goals they consider most important.

From a list of current Strategic Priorities, the board identified five as important to continue to focus upon or to take to the next level. The survey revealed that Workforce Development and Attracting Talent topped was viewed as the top priority by a wide margin, with 90 percent identifying it as an important goal.

That was followed by “Strategic Placemaking”, defined as supporting projects that will help make Billings regionally competitive, with 71 percent identifying that as a primary goal.

Retention of Current Business and the Enhancement of New Businesses tied as the third priority with 57 percent of the vote. Increase Awareness of BSED and its Services garnered 38 percent of the vote; followed by Take Career and Technical Education (CTE) to the Next Level, 33 percent; continuing with the development of the TEDD (Targeted Economic Development District) in Lockwood and other key infrastructure, 33 percent; continue to grow the 504 Loan Program, 29 percent; Beautification of the City, 24 percent; Expand Air Service, 14 percent; Support High Education, 14 percent; continue to grow the Opportunity Fund and identify a plan for the use of those funds, 10 percent.

Another five priorities were identified from a list of new Strategic Priorities.

They focused more closely on specific projects, with One Big Sky District receiving the top number of votes with 95 percent, followed by the implementation of the plan to develop entrepreneur resources and space with 81 percent of the vote. Development of a “Sports Complex and Semi-Pro Athletics” facility tied with “Lobby State Legislature for Economic Development Tools” in the next session, 62 percent. 

Receiving limited support were other proposals regarding initiatives for crime reduction, developing a facility for co-occupancy, and to spearhead developments that would attract retirement-age demographics.

All of EDA/EDC projects are in keeping with the agencies’ core mission of supporting local business growth and development by providing support services and training opportunities, as well as providing financing opportunities. They also actively work to recruit new businesses to Billings and assist in community development efforts.