Focus on Movers & Shakers
Development leader ‘determined to make a difference’
By ERIKA HOEFER -- Flathead Business Journal
Bad economy. Market downsizing. Bearish attitudes.
As executive director of Montana West Economic Development, Kellie Danielson has seen and heard it all.
But she’s not about to let a challenging economy stop her from fostering new growth in the Flathead business community.
“I’m determined to make a difference,” she said.
Danielson grew up in Arkansas during less than flourishing times.
“I know what it’s like to struggle. I get rewards trying to help businesses grow and prosper so people have an opportunity to earn an income and have benefits.”
Danielson is focused on finding people who want to live here and persuading them to bring their business as well. That was part of the draw for Danielson herself. She remembered how much she enjoyed vacationing in Montana and moved here a few years ago from the Chicago area. Her husband still works for a Chicago-based company and commutes back and forth every few months. The long commute is well worth it, she says, for the scenery and friendly people they’ve encountered here.
Currently Danielson is putting a lot of energy into attracting outdoor-supply companies, businesses that belong here with all the year-round outdoor opportunities available.
Outside marketing is also a big priority within the Montana West office. Danielson and her team want to make sure business leaders from California to Georgia know what the Flathead Valley has to offer.
“We’re not on anyone’s radar screen,” she said. Isolation is the biggest challenge for the valley to overcome.
“Transportation does hurt us,” she said. “We are very blessed to have Glacier Park International with the major airlines to provide service.”
She and her staff are heavily courting a few options for Columbia Falls right now. They’ve put substantial investment into infrastructure to support the businesses and show the viability of the small city.
“We’re helping to raise the last bit of capital for them,” Danielson said, adding that part of their courtship has included conducting engineering studies for the prospective companies.
While Danielson hopes her studies and meetings help lure in new business with new jobs, she says ultimately it depends on whether the companies can see themselves fitting in here.
About this, she has no worries.
“People are what make a place and there’s just something special about this valley.”