The Eastern Montana Impact Coalition (Coalition) last week announced via meetings with eastern Montana legislators and government stakeholders that it has launched a study to identify how and when eastern Montana communities will be impacted by accelerating energy development. The study’s goal is to help local communities understand the timing and magnitude of these impacts and determine the priority issues to be addressed and investments required to benefit from energy development and build the foundation for sustainable growth. Formed early in 2012, the Coalition includes a unique collaboration between four economic Districts, including Great Northern Development Corporation (GNDC), Richland Economic Development Corporation (REDC), Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation (EPEDC), and South Eastern Montana Development Corporation (SEMDC). These Districts collectively represent 16 counties, which encompasses approximately 43,000 square miles of eastern Montana (about the size of New York State).
“We are blessed to have large untapped energy reserves, but need only look across the border to North Dakota to see how rapid energy development can dramatically impact local communities. Energy development does provide tremendous opportunities for our communities but requires government and industry to work in partnership to achieve positive long term growth through thoughtful investments in infrastructure, housing, public safety, job training, education and healthcare. Through this study and in collaboration with our communities, the state, federal government and the energy industry, we can anticipate, prepare, respond and embrace energy development; creating a detailed road map that prioritizes issues, engages local communities and anticipates the needs of future Montanans.” said Leslie Messer with the REDC.
“With the advent of new technologies in oil extraction, several regions across the United States are experiencing explosive energy development but none have undertaken an effort such as this that involves federal, state and local governments as well as local communities, businesses and citizens,” added Martin DeWitt with GNDC.
“Working together we can insure we are prepared for and able to take advantage of all that energy development has to offer our state. We want solid, sustainable communities that can thrive now and in the future and that we can all be proud of.”
To conduct the study, the Coalition retained a multidisciplinary team of experts, from Montana and beyond. This team, which includes civil engineers, land use planners, economists, real estate development advisors and economic development specialists, is first working to define the impacts and then will collaborate with local communities and other stakeholders to create a detailed road map that prioritizes investments needed to create the infrastructure necessary to build quality communities that support growth and long term job creation. These investments will leverage the revenue from energy resources to generate long term returns for local communities and the entire the state while simultaneously planning for future generations.
According to Jason Rittal of EPEDC, the initially funded portion of the study will include:
• Mapping the location, size and timing of anticipated energy development
• Projecting the impact this development will have on infrastructure, jobs, housing and public safety and healthcare as well as a variety of community land use issues
• Conducting education and outreach events with impacted communities
• Informed by the vision and concerns of impacted communities, create a high level road map to prioritize investments that will mitigate impacts and support future growth
This consulting team is being led by Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the world’s largest real estate services firms and is further supported by a core team which includes; SmithGroup JJR, one of the nation’s leading architecture, engineering and planning firms; Allied Engineering, a civil engineering firm based in Bozeman that has worked extensively with energy impacted communities in North Dakota and Eastern Montana; and Ecolibrium a multidisciplinary consulting company based in Bozeman.
Published February 20, 2013