(Colstrip) In December of 2016, after nearly a year of planning activity, Southeastern Montana Development (SEMDC) kicked-off the Economic Diversification Strategy planning session for Colstrip.

Even before the announcement in July of 2016 that Colstrip Units 1 and 2 would be closing by July of 2022, the community identified a need in their Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to conduct a diversification and marketing study in hopes of stabilizing the local economic base. As a result, SEMDC wrote and received grants from Montana Coal Board, Montana Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund and the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to hire a consultant to conduct the work. In November of 2016, KLJ was selected.

In partnership with SEMDC, KLJ representatives kicked off the project with two nights of public meetings in early December, 2016. Local, regional and state community members, along with private sector parties and government officials attended, providing essential information and feedback as to the current economic drivers and challenges in Colstrip and ideas about potential diversification strategies.  In addition to strategies addressing clean coal and energy related technologies, the group identified a number of additional new manufacturing, tourist, construction, agribusiness, place making, and workforce development concepts. KLJ has taken this information and in conjunction with extensive research related to regional and national diversification best practices, is preparing a draft community diversification strategy.

A second public input session had been scheduled for January 31st, however, due to weather related road conditions, the meeting had to be postponed.  The second Public Input Session is now scheduled for Monday, March 20, 2017 at the Colstrip City Hall (6:00pm).  KLJ will present the draft strategies and will be asking for input and comment from the community and key stakeholders before finalizing the plan.  The general public is invited and encouraged to attend.

SEMDC and KLJ would like to acknowledge the tremendous support for this project thus far and encourage continued support as it moves forward. From local officials at the city and county to the Montana Department of Commerce, Governor’s office, the EDA, numerous Unions and even the White House, Colstrip and the future of coal and energy in Montana has received publicity, inquiry and genuine bi-partisan discussion which has propelled the success of this endeavor.

For more information or to provide input prior to the public input session on March 20th, please contact SEMDC at 406-748-2990 or visit their website at www.semdc.org.