Rural Economic Designs, LLC

Building A Stronger Future for Rural Communities


May 2016

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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