MISSOULA — Months of discussion culminated last week when Missoula County officially created a new economic district intended to capture tax increment to help fund infrastructure improvements and, in the end, attract new businesses.
The new Targeted Economic Development District, located near the Wye west of Missoula, is the county’s first since establishing a similar district at the Missoula Development Park, followed shortly after by the Bonner West Log Yard.
Both districts have been highly successful, creating dozens of new businesses and hundreds of jobs. The county likes the potential of the new district at the Wye.
“I’m excited about the future development that can happen in this area, and the job growth and economic vibrancy in an area that’s poised for it,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “It’s already zoned industrial, but it doesn’t have as much activity as we’d like.”
Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring an infrastructure deficiency on several hundred acres south of the Interstate 90 interchange at the Wye in August.
That current lack of infrastructure covers nearly all types, from unpaved roads to poor pedestrian access. Drainage is particularly lacking, broadband is spotty and the area’s water supply is unpredictable.
Dori Brownlow, the county’s director of development, said that with the district now established, the county will complete a study on where to begin making improvements.
“I think the first thing we’ll need to do is a study and start looking at the drainage out there,” Brownlow said. “If you improve the roads, you need curbing and drainage. We’ll need to tie Missoula Water into the discussion. We’ll be bringing all that back up while discussing a plan.”
Development interest is high in Missoula, and real estate officials have said that industrial space is lacking. The lack of designated industrial space has emerged as a potential barrier to economic growth and job creation, officials have said.
But improvements planned for the Wye are expected to attract light industrial businesses and value-added manufacturing. Providing city water and creating a stormwater system stand among the highest priorities.
“Folks are often aware of what the city does as far as economic development, but this is a clear cut example of where the county can play a role in helping infrastructure be improved in areas of our jurisdiction that will hopefully spur economic development,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.