Rural Economic Designs, LLC

Building A Stronger Future for Rural Communities

Are your Social Media Posts Impacting Your Rural Community?

I live in a rural community and overall I love it.    I think that the community members tend to support each other through all sorts of issues; from a loved one being sick and needing help with medical costs, making sure kids have winter clothing, donating wood to those in need of heat, supporting each other during major disasters like we saw this summer with forest fires, and in general we are a solid community working together for the betterment of all.

However, a new trend is starting to emerge in my community which got me looking at other community’s social media pages; specifically Facebook.   It is somewhat astonishing to see what people will post on community pages and how harmful their posts are to the work that I and many others are doing in Rural America and to their own home-town community.


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In just my small rural community we have a number of Facebook pages for the community to utilize.  There is an Online Yard Sale site, a Eureka Small Business and Handyman Service Site, an “Air Your Grievances” site,  a Eureka Community Bulletin Board, a Eureka Kudos and Thanks, and a Eureka, Montana fire update and pics site.   Overall, each of these sites are serving an important role in our community.  They serve as a place to share information about activities, events, business services, sales, and so much more.

And, they are also serving as a place for people to be very aggressive in behavior and spew unnecessary negativity.  Hey, it is easy right, you are sitting in the comfort of your home and something irritates you… why not say what you want…what is the harm?

Well, the harm is that social media is a key tool for businesses and site selectors to utilize in determining investment.  It is a tool for potential employers to determine employees’ potential.  And, it is used to determine if a community is for someone to move their family to or relocate to for whatever reason; retirement, change of lifestyle, telecommunicate, or job opportunity.   For whatever reason, they have people are using social media to learn about your community… But your post could be sharing the wrong story and actually harming your community. 

If your community pages are flooded with discontent, false accusations, misleading information, and general arguments what is Facebook portraying about your community?

The other day I followed a chain from a woman, who obviously is upset.  She claimed that people have been stealing from her and though many responded with positive ways to address the situation, she and others were adamant that our community was crime-ridden and the law enforcement does nothing.  And this post is being shared!   YIKES!  and it continues to have more people posting on it so it continues to pop into newsfeeds of anyone following this public community Facebook page… double YIKES!   This is a community where I don’t even lock my car doors while running errands!

So, here I am reading this chain, and, mind you, I work almost daily with our law enforcement entities (which we have 6 different branches of) and they are each dedicated to the protection and service of the community, and I’m heartbroken.

Is this one woman’s perception really the reality? Do people really believe this about our community?  Or is this just an easy way to be disgruntled and is group mentality really at play?  Whatever the reason, it is harmful.


I was working with a potential business to move into our area over the last couple of years and they could be a game changer for our ever-present economic distress.   However, one of the comments that continued to be shared with me was “Your community is so negative”.   They were following our community pages.  And,  though they absolutely loved the local restaurants showcasing their specials, the call for recommendations for a service needed, the information on community events, and all the other positive and informational posts, they were focused on these negative long dramatic chains that were just feeding and festering this unnerving attitude.  I mean, we have an “air your grievance” page (which I do not follow!) … why can’t that be the center of this social experience of hatred, why does it have to spill over to the pages set up for the betterment of our community?

I’m appalled!  And, as I started researching to see is this just in my community or in others, I truly think it is an epidemic.  Rural America has so many things facing us and now this?!  How do we combat this horrible trend in social behavior that gives anyone with any type of a gripe a platform regardless of the truth or right?

So, my challenge to you… think before you post.  It is so easy, I know I’ve done it myself.  You are having a day of hell, and there is just that one person that treated you unfairly and you want to gripe about it.  We are all guilty of it… I think it’s human nature.  However, maybe do it off of social media?  Let’s make our community better by focusing on the good like the “Eureka Kudos” page does.  Maybe focus your attention on what is working and take the time to say thank-you! 

image from Sutherland Insitute on Economic Gardening









And if you really have a situation take it to the right people who can help remedy it.  You have a problem within your local community then be active and make a change for the better.  Proactively talk- don’t attack- but TALK to those in charge.  Call the Sheriff and tell them you were disappointed with how you were treated if that doesn’t work call the County Commissioner.  Everyone tends to have someone that they report to.

And as one wise man once said “Be the Change you want to See in the World”

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Though, I will add, make sure you know the whole story and the facts behind an issue before you jump on board!  You just might not have the whole story when you respond to someone else’s post!







Finding More?

Lately, I have been talking to a number of nonprofits that are struggling with limited resources and even more daunting, limited volunteers.  It seems no matter where you go there is someone somewhere asking for more donations, more time, more, more, more…. and is there an answer?

Last night I was visiting with a couple who attended a public input session for a local nonprofit.  They both serve on the Board for the nonprofit that is wanting to preserve the historic Community Hall in Eureka while promoting live theater.  It is a GREAT cause but as usual, when a public meeting is held, there was limited involvement from the general community.

Why? This continues to be a plaguing question for the communities and nonprofits we work with and though we would love to have that shining brilliant answer it is somewhat a complex situation.  However, at the very heart of it, we come back to Community Apathy… it is strong and it is apparently winning.

There are many different factors on why Community Apathy is occurring in rural communities across the US.   For us, what we observe, is there is just too much going on.  In the world where there is constant and instant entertainment are we just to overwhelmed as a society to be a community?

One of my overarching life goals on my vision board is to take more time to just be me and to truly connect with people through authentic moments unrelated to technology.   I am as guilty as anyone of replacing reality with a serious cell phone junky habit.  My constant demand on false connections through social media channels was overtaking my evenings where I should have been out enjoying time with friends, family and dare I say community!  No MORE!

Maybe if we all spent less time chasing the instant return and more time investing in long-lasting connections; and spending less time on Facebook or in front of Netflex, and more time in volunteering and participating in our community, we would find there is truly “more”.  And that “more” is a lot more gratifying.






Leadership- It isn’t about Being Tougher

Years ago, I was in a training about leadership in rural areas.  What I remember most download (1)vividly was the trainer spoke to us about the “lobster pot” theory.  This theory is about communities that are experiencing distress often will get lost in a cycle of despair where if any individual or group start to climb out of the distress, the remainder do whatever they can to prevent it from happening- similar to when lobster is being prepared one will try to escape but the others pull them back down into the hot boiling water; preventing the one from bettering oneself.

Though I’ve experienced this in the past I had honestly thought I had left it behind when I moved into my own business; silly me for thinking so.  A recent statement that was made in a public meeting was “is this that Tracy’s idea“- and though it wasn’t my idea I was merely trying to coordinate the community project, I wanted to stand up and yell “Who cares if it was or wasn’t my idea, the point is the project will protect ground water, improve and continue to provide a beloved community facility, and remove failing septic systems”. The point of the project is lost among the personal dislike of individuals (in this case myself and a couple others who has done so much for the local community).  Why does this continue to happen?  Is this because some are so lost in their own despair and hatred that they cannot imagine anyone doing something good, and right? Is it jealous of perceived power? Or is it merely a reflection on their own insecurities and self-doubt? Or is it their desire to use fear as a weapon to make themselves look important?

Who knows, but the best advice (supposedly) that I have been given is “what they think about you is none of your business and grow tougher skin if you want to be in leadership”… right?  Well, I’m here to say no- that isn’t the best advice.  I am a sensitive person and, though many don’t believe this, I am an introvert that sometimes struggles just being around people. Conflict makes me want to stay in my home binge watching Doris Day movies, but I’ve learned how to become stronger, not tougher, because of the conflict I’ve dealt with.   I have learned there are ways to be a good leader without having to “develop tough skin” and how to become stronger without becoming hardened.

Here is a bit of my advice on dealing in these situations and people:

1. You don’t have to grow Alligator Skin to be a Leader–  Time and time again, I’m told “Don’t take it personally.  Get tougher skin. They are the vocal minority and we know who you are and what you do”.  That is great advice but guess what… I am taking it personally because I give heart and soul to my work as I believe I’m making our community, State, Country, and World better.

I REFUSE TO HAVE ALLIGATOR SKIN!  I will continue to take these statements about what I do personally as it makes me stronger but it doesn’t make me harder.  I am more resolved than ever to push back, with positive affirmations and good work, against those that use fear and misinformation to bend people to their will.  I will become better because they make me understand what I don’t want to be.  I will learn from what criticism may be hidden in these blanketed statements of “fear mongrels” to improve my work and life.  I also will share my compassion for these individuals, who live with such passionate fear themselves, to find peace at some point in their lives; as it is such a waste for anyone to be filled with such animosity that they cannot even understand that there truly is good in the world.


And truly the most genuine thing any of us can do when a community leader is being attacked by the vocal minority… show up! Show your community leaders that the community is watching and they do care about the leaders who have put themselves out there.  So next time you read in the local newspaper or hear on the radio and you think “that’s not right” take the minute to send a quick email or  make a call to your community leader, send a note of thanks, anything to help them understand that though they took a beating that day for the community they are loved and appreciated.

It is a lonely spot being a community leader sometimes but overall, most of the community is paying attention even if they don’t say or come to anything.  It would just be really nice to get some positive affirmations as that goes a long way from preventing one of becoming “tougher”.

2. Understand the Motivation of Jealous and Insecurity – I had to recognize and come to accept that not everyone will like or admire my work; that some will see it as a direct reflection of their own shortcomings (perceived or real) and attack.  The motivation of jealously and insecurity is strong and very dangerous; and are emotions that cannot be swept aside as they are powerful and often will cause undue destruction if not addressed; or better stated addressed in a conflicted manner.

Being super defensive in situations where people are “attacking” the work you are doing will do no good as you are not dealing with the rationality of a truly concerned individual… you are dealing with a handful of people, who have placed you or your project or team in the “threat” category. They are not rationally thinking what their actions are doing or the ripple effect of their decisions; they were in their own bubble caused by insecurity and for whatever self-doubting reasons they had only see the danger to them; rather it is real or not.

Dealing with a person(s) who is reacting to their own emotions of jealously and/or insecurity (I believe they work in a combined fashion) needs to be done outside of the collective good. Entering an argument with them publicly, though may feel good in the moment to defend oneself, will result in nothing more than making them even more determined to get you away from them, prove their point, or they will shut down completely.  Classic flee or fight syndrome and a complete loss for all of us involved.

By stepping back, recognizing that the emotion isn’t really  about you or the work and just letting the drama die down will allow them to control their own emotions over time and hopefully you can find a solution… though as a side-note if you are dealing with someone that is not  in it for the betterment of the community but using fear and misinformation to promote themselves into a perceived position of power; in my opinion it is best to walk away and let their anger fizzle out. They can burn their own bridges faster than you can defend yourself.

However, if behavior is truly misplaced especially if its insecurity take the time to LISTEN to what they have to say and respond individually (one on one, no public, no bosses) to their concerns.  Being a leader means understanding that some of the best conflict management is not getting tougher but getting softer so you can understand the underlying emotions and respect them.

My friends at Thrive have a wonderful class on Using Conflict.  Though I only attended an abbreviated version a few months ago I’d highly recommend it.  It is a great course on  how to handle conflict to better yourself and the work you are doing.

3. Learn to Let Go-  “Let it Go, Let It Go, turn away and slam the door”-  And at the end you have a choice to let it go and move forward or to let their hatred, lobster clawing ways destroy you.  I’ve fumed about things, I’ve vented to loved ones about how horrible these people are, and then I just found I was wasting so much time on them.   I was allowing these people who obviously are not in a good place themselves, have control over my life! Why oh why would I do that?  I made a promise to myself that my life would be dedicated to improving the world we live in.  I am passionate about helping others succeed and rural communities to thrive.  I will focus on being a change I want to see and though I am sure there will be days that I fume over a loss or an attack will get my Irish Temper flaring, I know in my heart that I’m stronger than ever before and that a new chapter will begin.

And at the end of the day… it really is the choice you make that will make you a better leader and overall a happier person.


Seinfeld Theory… Its all about Community Apathy

Years ago, when I was still relatively new to the world of economic and community development, I was talking to a dear friend, well I was basically venting to a dear friend, about the lack of attendance at a public meeting I hosted the night before.  This public meeting was held to gather public input on a community economic strategic plan.  I was so disappointed when yet again, out of a population of 6,000 plus I had about 10 people attend.   I had done newspaper ads, flyers, email invites, and person to person invitations (it was before social media was available).   My friend, made a profound statement and said it was the Seinfeld Theory at work… and my response, as I’m sure many of yours is… What is the Seinfeld Theory?


The Seinfeld Theory, is a simple way of stating that the majority of community members would prefer to be at home watching reruns of Seinfeld then attending a meeting.  People are tired; they have worked throughout the day, they are stressed about money and putting food on the table, they have gone to several events for their kids… they are TIRED!  And, I get that.  There are times I’m so tired that my bones ache.  However, I still manage to pull my weary self-up and go to Council meetings, attend a Chamber Function, participate in a community planning session, read the minutes of the Commissioner meetings, read the local newspaper (and regional ones), watch the news, and be informed of what is going on in my community, region, State, and Country.  I see that as part of my role as a US Citizen.   It is your responsibility to be informed of what is happening around you, no one else’s.

The last few days, I’ve seen so much negative banter on all venues of communications.  In person, a dear friend was appalled that I said, maybe it’s not going to be too bad; talking about President Elect Donald Trump.  I, who did not support Trump or Clinton, was at the mercy of her rant.  Mostly because I was a safe place for that rant to happen, but because she knew I shared her concerned of the future.  And, I do…I am concerned with our future.

I’m am deeply concerned for the future of Rural America as we continue to see this change in population demographics.  With an aging population across the United States, our rural communities are suffering more than ever.  The disconnect between rural and metropolitan has become a deep crevice that I wonder if it will ever be bridged.  The continual attack on the fabric of natural resource and agriculture based economies gain ground as the connection continues to dissipate.   A way of life is being destroyed because of Community Apathy and the Decline of Civic Duty; too many people stay at home and look for someone to give them the solution instead of being engaged and working for a solution.

I had the pleasure to speak at the Montana Young Professional Summit this last summer in beautiful Great Falls Montana.  This is by the US standards a rural community, but by Montana Standards Great Falls is one of the 7 largest cities in Montana.  Young Professionals from across the State were in attendance and a question was asked “How do we address the issues happening in Rural Montana”.  EXCELLENT QUESTION… my response… “Be Engaged!”.  The generational transference of leadership has proven to be a difficult for many in rural areas.   As I approach 40 (GASP) I continue to be one of the youngest in the room; and that has been the case since I was 23.  Something is broken.

Are we not conveying to the younger generations the opportunity and importance for involvement? Are we discouraging them by being to set in our ways?  Is there a fear of change that has prevented the generational transfer?  Or, is there a fear of failure preventing the youth from stepping into those roles?  Have we become a society that is so focused on making sure we can buy the newest cell phone or the right brand, that we forget that we can make life better for all with a bit of elbow grease, and giving some time back?  Have we attacked and made those who are engaged so embittered that they are no longer willing to lead and give?  Have we created a monster of despair in Rural Communities because we no longer care?

Across the nation, we see more and more people remove themselves from Community Engagement.  Many hide behind “I’ve worked all day and need to spend time with my family” or “I have XYZ to do with my kids tonight”.  I appreciate when I get the truth of, “I just really don’t want to go”.  Chambers, Churches, Civic Organizations, Fundraisers, Community Events, you name it… it is all in decline- yet as a nation we will spend hours watching Hallmark Channel over the next 6 weeks, being envious of the idyllic communities portrayed.    Instead of dreaming about the perfect community, why not engage and help plan for the community you are in?

As I challenged all those Young Professionals in August, I am challenging all who read this to start going to your Town Council and Commissioner meetings, participate in community planning efforts, and join the Chamber or other Civic groups (Lions, Kiwanis, School Board).  My challenge to all of you is to understand the importance of being engaged on the local level.  We all have misgivings about the future, but in my humble opinion if we want true change, we need to start at home and in our local communities. This doesn’t mean posting about it on Facebook or attending a fundraiser once a year.

I mean engage.  Learn when the Chamber of Commerce is hosting their monthly meetings and help find economic solutions to our distressed communities by going to your local or regional planning sessions.  Instead of complaining about a lack of a service on social media or an issue you have, be informed and go to the annual meetings of organizations and address the concern face to face.  If you have an issue with the way the Town is being operated, get on the agenda and CIVILLY give constructive criticism. Just know that if you are going to criticize you should also be prepared to know the facts, and come with a better solution or at least an idea to make it better.

It is so easy to judge from the comfort of your couch but why not come and give suggestions.  Some ideas may not work or be the route chosen, but the synergy of a group of people doing affirmative inquiry and building off each other’s positive ideas are astounding.  I’ve seen where communities have been so successful in building themselves back from devastation because the PEOPLE were engaged.  It’s not always easy, and there will be times when no one likes each other, but keep coming back with respect for each other and differences of opinions, build on the areas that you do agree with, and change can happen.  It won’t be over night and it won’t always be pretty but you will be thankful in the end.

If you are retired, volunteer to mentor a Start Up business.  If you are just starting your career join a civic group and give back to the Community.  If you are still in High School, ask a parent or relative where you can volunteer.  Residents should attend your Town Council meetings occasionally to learn what is being discussed and the reality of situations.   And all residents need to stop listening to the rhetoric of fear mongering and learn what is truly happening by talking with those who are involved directly or better yet be one of those directly involved.  If you are a business owner, support other businesses when they have a sale or a mixer, or a grand opening.  You’d expect them to come to yours so cross support and promote!  If you have a fundraiser for your organization or benefit, then pay it forward and go to others.  If you have kids, bring them! Let’s start installing community civic duty back into our youth now and show them there are opportunities in our community before they leave high school.

I encourage youth to go to college or a trade school, complete an apprenticeship, live abroad, travel, whatever they want to do; but I also encourage them to know about their community enough that they can come home or come home to another rural community.   As we move into the largest generational retirement in our history, the rhetoric about needing to create jobs will become a thing of the past.  Communities need to start working together, rural and urban, to build bridges to support one another.   For neither rural or urban areas, can survive without the other.  Rural provides so much of the resource the urban utilizes and vice versa.  It is a two-way street and all of us are in it together.   We just all need to stop watching reruns and join around a table.



Finding Inspiration

Earlier this summer, I had the rare opportunity to spend a day with my Dad in the Flathead; just the two of us.  I had a doctors appointment and he was dropping off his hand-painted glassware from Elk Camp Arts to the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center.

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I must admit, having parents like mine, has been a huge inspiration in my own business.  My parents, installed in their daughters early on that we really could do anything we want, and as of this year all three of their daughters are now business owners!  Working with and watching my father, as he built his art business over the course of more years then he’d want me to say, has shown me that hard work, dedication and passion, along with some solid Montana determination can result in fulfilling a dream.  There isn’t a day that goes by that my Dad isn’t pursuing his art dream and every day, more and more growth occurs.  Truly inspiring.

Along our adventurous day, we stopped at the Glacier Distillery in Corum, Montana.   I know a number of the Distillers in the State, but this little gem of a place has probably my all time favorite drink; The Daughter of the Sun, Cherry Brandy Liqueur.  If you haven’t tried it, and are over 21 of course, this is a must for your Montana Bucket List!  Victoria and her husband Nick, are an incredible couple with rich personal life stories.  Though, I do not know them overly well, anytime I visit with them I’m in awe of their passion for our State and for just living life to the fullest.  They have created an awesome business in a rural area, and give back to their community every day.  From creating local jobs and utilizing local products, the Glacier Distillery is an awesome business and one I encourage everyone to support.

Glacier Distilling “Daughter of the Sun” looks perfect in Elk Camp Art hand-painted Tumblers
As you can see, this day was shaping up to be pretty awesome.  As we ran the normal errands to Costco, went to the doctors appointment and generally did what one living in Rural Montana does when we make it to the “big” towns, my Dad and I reminisced about his childhood and mine, and how many things have changed.  It always brings a smile on my face listening to my Dad talk about days gone by.   He truly can make even the most stoic person break out in laughter with his stories; such a typical old cowboy my Dad.

On our route home, through Whitefish, Montana, we saw the signs for the local Farmers Market.  Now, this is also should be on everyone’s bucket list for a Montana Summer as the Whitefish Farmers Market is such a wonderful experience.  Crafters, food vendors, fresh produce from the surrounding area, live music, and good community vibes make this a great stop along any route.   So, of course, we stopped!  IIMG_5289[1]t was an absolutely wonderful way to end this Father/Daughter day of fun.   While walking through, we found all sorts of treasures but I’d be mistaken if I didn’t tell you about this young girl who was just truly beautiful inside and out.  Though, I don’t know her name, she is the owner and creative person behind Cutie Pies.  I pretty much fell in love with everything about this young business and entrepreneur.  She is the classic entrepreneur that every Economic Developer/Business Technical Assistance Provider would want.  Well presented, solid idea, business knowledge and an outstanding product that was well packaged.   If you are in Whitefish, you WANT a Cutie Pie!  I personally tried the Strawberry Apple and it was bursting with flavor and hello… look how cute it was packaged… I almost didn’t want to open it! Just absolutely wonderful.

Now this day didn’t just happen, its been a good 5-6 weeks ago.  But, it is still a day that is lingering in my mind.  I go back to it, and will continue to revisit the memory, for not only was it a special day with my Dad, but it was full of all these great businesses and individuals.  Finding inspiration isn’t always easy but there are days like this one, that will stay with you long after the photos fade.  The feeling of connecting with like minded entrepreneurs was thrilling, and I continue to seek this type of connection as a cornerstone in my professional and personal life.  Truly, for me, inspiration is finding moments of time that you can store away and remember the scents, excitement, sounds, and textures; so that anytime when life gets a little dark or a little harder than you like, you get hit hard and knocked down a bit, you can pull that moment up and remember, overall life is pretty dang amazing and take on a new day.


Build Your Network at the Montana Ambassadors’ Business Open

It is with great pleasure to be serving the State of Montana as a Montana Ambassador. When I received my appointment to the Ambassadors in 2013 I was unaware how vast of a network the Ambassador had, and how amazing being a part of them would really be. Now, being on the Board and having started my business, I couldn’t imagine not having this network supporting me.  I have made some incredible friends through my involvement with the Montana Ambassadors and I’m honored to be assisting in the hosting of the 12th Annual Business Open Golf Tournament at the Old Works Golf course in Anaconda Montana.

This event is so much more than a golf tournament- it is an opportunity to connect with friends, make new acquaintances, and build your network; which will continue to support you in your career.  Networks are a key to most peoples’ success  and this is where people come together to Better Montana.

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The Montana Business Open is a full day of golf and fun in the great outdoors of Montana on August 12th.  Anaconda is a wonderful community to spend some time shopping and exploring for those of you who want to be involved but don’t really enjoy golfing.   Though we encourage all to participate in the Awards BBQ around 1:30/2:00 as we fill the entire Club House with laughter and maybe a few shenanigans.

On August 11th, is the networking reception at Fairmont Hot-springs, with the Montana Ambassadors, Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development, many members of the Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA), business leaders, government leaders, and community members from across the State.   This networking reception is well worth the trip and one I hope I will see many of you at.   If you are registered as a golfer the reception is part of your registration fee; if you are one (like me) that won’t necessarily being taking up a nine iron, it is $15 to join the reception.  Beyond worth it!

Montana is a wonderful place to work, live, and play in!  The Montana Business Open and Networking Reception is an event that showcases Montana at its finest.  You will make friends for a life time, learn about programs and possibly find assistance for your business or entity, and overall have a great time.

The Montana Ambassadors have also provided a series of sponsorship opportunities for businesses to showcase what they do.   Montana Ambassadors Sponsorship Incentives_Page_1Montana Ambassadors Sponsorship Incentives_Page_2SIGN UP TODAY

Take my advice,  this is something you don’t want to miss!

Join us at the Innovate Montana Symposium

It is with distinct pleasure that I can announce that I will be a panelist speaker for a Break out session on Succession Planning, at the Innovate Montana Symposium on July 13th and 14th.  I will also, with many of my fellow Montana Ambassadors  be part of the Solution Lounges; a place for individuals to seek one on one conversations with “subject experts who will offer the latest in tools and financing to support business growth and foster Montana’s entrepreneurial environment” (Innovate Montana Symposium).

I am thrilled to be part of this unique symposium and encourage everyone across Montana and those interested in “Choosing Montana” to become involved.  This will be a fantastic way to make new connections, learn business skills, and overall have a wonderful time in downtown Billings.   It is a venue for our vast State to interconnect with resources, potential partners and investors, learn from some of our State’s Leading businesses, and build lasting relationships with like minded individuals.

Innovate Montana Symposium, is lead by my friends and colleagues in the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).  To learn more about Innovate Montana visit their website at and register today for the Symposium.  You will not regret it!

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And, while you are exploring the Innovate Montana website, take a moment and connect to one of the best resources for business development in the State of Montana; Montana Business Navigator.  This is an excellent resource for any person who is considering starting a business or already in business.  As an entrepreneur, it can be challenging to figure out all the ends and outs of the starting a  business but again, thanks to our friends at the Montana GOED office, this challenge has become a whole lot easier to navigate.

Learning about all the resources available in your community, region, and state can make an incredible difference in the success of your business or community project.  At Rural Economic Designs, part of our role is to promote and provide connections to our clients.  It is pretty amazing how a little bit of networking can make such a HUGE impact on your future.

Volunteer Your Time- It Makes YOU Stronger


Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA) Resource Team in Ronan, Montana.  This experience was a wonderful opportunity not only to share the knowledge that Rural Economic Designs has but also to learn new ideas and resources from colleagues across the State.  It is so incrediable to spend time in a community and truly learn from those passionate about their community.


Growing up in Western Montana, I drove through Ronan thousands of times.  I spent some time down in the 4-H Extension Office for Lake County and attended the Lake County Jr. Fair a handful of times.  However, I never took the time to really learn or see Ronan.  It is a beautiful community with a rich cultural past and future.    Though, there are difficulties facing the community, I am amazed at how resilient these folks truly area.   I also had no idea how much agriculture they still have especially as agriculture in Western Montana continues to decline to make room for second homes and sprawling urban centers.   Ronan has a ton of opportunities and I’m excited to be working with them even though it’s just for a moment.


The MEDA Resource Teams is a program that the MEDA organization provides for any community in the State of Montana.  A group of volunteers, across the State that are engaged in economic and community development from State Programs to local development organizations to private consultants like Rural Economic Designs, come into the community for 2 to 3 days.  The purpose of the visit is to listen to residents, business owners, community leaders, political leaders, and others about what is happening in their community.   The Resource Team after gathering all this  information creates a report that identifies potential projects, ideas, and resources based on what the community told the Team.  Then members of the team will return to the Community in 3-4 weeks to help those engaged in the process prioritize and develop tangible projects that address key issues in the community.


It is truly a wonderful experience and Ronan was one of the more interesting communities I’ve gone to.  The mix of cultures with the Salish-Kootenai Tribes, generational agricultural families, and emerging industries has created a uniqueness in this rural community, unlike what I’ve experienced in other areas.   I think these folks  have made huge strides in working together and has a lot of potential to retain the past while building a strong future.


And, I would be remised if I didn’t discuss the honor we had of attending the Salish-Kootenai River Honoring Ceremony on the Flathead Lake.  To be immersed into their culture and experience a ceremony that has taken place for centuries was truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in Montana.   Though the food was incredible, my favorite part of the evening was the releasing of a bald eagle that had been rescued and nursed back to health.  What an inspriration evening to be connected to the land in such a way and experiance such a welcoming from a very rich and friendly culture.

See our videos on the River Honoring Ceremony including the Eagle Release on our Facebook Page



I wanted to write this experience down not only to share the overall experience but to stress the importance of volunteering.   Did I make any money from participating in this Resource Team- no.  Actually, I’m a bit behind now with my paying clients thus why working on a beautiful Sunday morning, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  There is a sense of accomplishment by participating in volunteer opportunities as well as a great way to learn from the experience itself.  It gives one the ability to step back from the day to day and see the world from a different view which in turns gives you new experiances and making you stronger in your daily life and work.  My advice is to capture those opportunities and learn from them.   Take the time to give back- you will say thank you in the end!

~A tribute to Our Moms~


On this weekend, while the sun is shining and mountains are calling, we find ourselves taking a bit of a break from the company to celebrate the women in our lives that we call Moms.  For me, growing up in rural Montana and enjoying the lifestyle that many only hear about on movies, I had three amazing women who encouraged and provided strength to me over the years.

This Mothers Day is the first time that we won’t have our Grandmothers with us (or at least on earth with us) and though there is a saddness in our hearts, it is a perfect time to reflect how much our mothers and grandmothers give to all of us.

Rural Economic Designs, LLC is a tribute to my grandmothers and my Mom.  Sandy, that’s my Mom and I in the middle picture, is an an amazing woman.  She has support the development of Rural Economic Designs in more ways than one.  Not only did she spend extra time designing and remodeling our office but she is now working part-time for the company. She provides research, office administration, and in all truth a bit of sanity!  Seriously, she is running errands for us right now on a Saturday just to make sure that we all can spend a day of free-time tomorrow!

My grandmothers, were individuals who raised families and showed me what hard work and dedication really meant.   My Grandma Wilcox worked side by side my grandfather from farming to their janitorial company, to many other trades over the years.  Growing up in Rural New Mexico my Grams had a special talent for taking a loaf of bread and making a meal from it to feed a small army.  No one ever went hungry when Lily was in the room. She was kind in a way of a true southern woman, but she had bit of a fiery temper from time to time when needed.  She loved fiercely and gave all she had to her family and friends.

Grandma Mac, (my Dad’s mom) lost her husband way to early.  With three young men to raise, Grandma worked odds and ends jobs, was a beautician, and could make the most beautiful afghans you have every seen.  As years flew by and her sons started raising families of her own, she took the road and spent her time traveling mostly in the Mountains of Montana and Wyoming.  Working as a camp host most summers she was content to be in her motor home and be completely dependent on herself.  The stories she would tell of the people she meet and places she saw always made me smile.  I was lucky to of spent some time in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming with her just exploring  during a summer off of college.  It is one of my favorite memories of her and I truly believe that some of the love I have for the mountains and solitutude came from the time I spent with Grandma Mac.

As a woman owed company with a full female staff, Rural Economic Designs, wants to recognize all Moms and Grandmas out there.   The strength and perseverance that we have here at Rural Economic Designs, is largely attributed to these three woman.   My advice for today, is if you really want to get something done gather a group of Mom’s and brainstorm it out with them.   Mothers have a unique ability to find solutions even in the darkest of hours especially when building a future for their children.

Happy Mothers Day everyone!



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