Annette Hayden Havre Daily News email@example.com
Bear Paw Development Corporation of Northern Montana, which has been building partnerships for community and economic development on the Hi- Line since 1968, shifted and added to its staff this month. Bear Paw Development serves Hill, Blaine, Liberty, Chouteau and Phillips counties and Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy. New to the community partnership organization is Krystal Steinmetz, who took office as the new director of community planning Monday, a position previously held for eight years by Craig Erickson. Erickson officially stepped up to director of infrastructure services on April 1, when 20- year veteran Annmarie Robinson relocated to Big Sandy. Robinson will continue as a 3/4-time employee with Bear Paw out of Big Sandy, serving as infrastructure specialist. “We have basically increased our staff size by a 3/4- time position, from eight full-time employees to 8 3/4,” Paul Tuss, executive director for Bear Paw Development, told the Havre Daily. “The changes started with Annmarie, whose husband farms in the Big Sandy area. Annmarie also serves as town clerk for Big Sandy and after 20 years of serving here, she was ready to be closer to home.” Robinson will work on a variety of projects for Bear Paw Development, as well as continuing her role as coordinator for the North Central Regional Water System. “She has been the coordinator on the regional water system project for years and it made sense for her to continue,” Tuss said. “She will also assist with other infrastructure projects.” Filling the vacancy left by Robinson, Erickson said he is looking forward to devoting his time to infrastructure, the backbone of community economic development. “It is a good opportunity to learn more about a very critical component of economic development,” Erickson said. “You cannot have economic growth if the essential infrastructure is not strong. You have to have clean water, bridges, safe streets, quality health car. Infrastructure is so important that is why I said yes’ when the opportunity came along.” Before joining Bear Paw Development in March 1999, Erickson worked close to 15 years in news broadcasting 12 years with Havre’s New Media Broadcasting, first as a radio host then as news director. Before that, he worked for a couple
of Years for a radio station in Colorado. “When I left broadcasting, I returned to school (at MSUNorthern) and saw the advertisement in the Havre Daily News for the director of community planning position at Bear Paw Development. One door had closed and another opened. My last eight years have been very good here and the new opportunity is good.” Erickson said he and Robinson had previously worked closely together and would remain available to each other as their individual projects required. The infrastructure development department began when BPDC was first funded by the government in 1968. The economic development movement, under the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, started with infrastructure development. “Basically to help local governments identify deficiencies and locate funding at the state and federal levels, and with preparing applications and then managing the funding when it is secured,” Tuss said. “The (BPDC) infrastructure department focus is on helping local governments. Not so much for Havre, but the smaller communities like Chinook, Big Sandy, Fort Benton and others that have very limited funding and staffing in their governing bodies and are unable to handle all the necessary activities from sewers to Head Start programs. All are important regardless of a community’s size. “The best part of providing this infrastructure service regionally is that each community doesn’t have to hire its own specialist,” Tuss added. “That is why regional economics development works so well in rural America.” At any given time, Tuss said, Bear Paw Development has close to $30 million worth of infrastructure projects at varying stages on its books. “That is significant by any measure” he said. Krystal Steinmetz, who moved into the position of director of community planning, was busy getting up to speed on projects Wednesday. “Right now we are seeking grant funding to help fund the Havre-Hill County growth policy,” she said. “It will be quite an involved contract.” Steinmetz is a Missoula native. She relocated to Havre three years ago and later married her husband, Steve Steinmetz, the general manager of Havre Ford. The couple’s two male Labradors, Tucker and Kota, fill out their family. A 2001 journalism graduate of University of Montana in Missoula, Steinmetz first worked as a reporter for the Havre Daily News, then as news director for New Media Broadcasters, later returning to the Daily to work in graphic design. She left the Daily in October 2006, continuing in design work for a local signage company. “What attracted me to reporting in the first place was the strong desire to help people,” Steinmetz said. “It is the same working at Bear Paw Development. Here I have the ability to help effect positive change and Bear Paw Development is so important to the Hi-Line. We are out there working in different towns and communities seeing if projects are feasible, getting projects going with the ability to reach out and provide a positive outcome.” As director of community planning, Steinmetz will be responsible for three areas, including growth planning, comprehensive economic development growth strategies (CEPS) and the Community Transportation Enhancement Program. The planning department manages the process of locating funding and appropriate specialists to assist communities with their planning needs. It also coordinates local meetings, gathers local planning data and gains local input on planning projects. “The planning department assists communities, cities and counties with their planning needs in building growth policies, which deals with zoning, annexation, potential infrastructure needs, transportation and such,” Tuss said. “The planning department’s role is to facilitate the process. Growth policies demand a fairly high volume of professionals be involved. “They are usually written by land-use planners,” he added. “We help local governments to locate and secure funding to hire the appropriate individual or company. It takes very specialized knowledge in land-use planning, they are complex and often controversial.” The other two functions of the planning department, include continually updating the CEDS, which is the information foundation of Bear Paw Development. “It is our referral database for project information,” Steinmetz said. “It contains demographics of the region, how we allocate resources to assist local governments.” Tuss said CEDS is the “cornerstone” of Bear Paw Development and has to be updated annually, which is the planner’s responsibility. Under CTEP, the planning department also manages U.S. Department of Transportation funding allocated to the state, then to local governments. “There are very specific uses for the money,” Tuss said. “Our planner assists in accessing those funds from the state for projects ranging from sidewalks to historic preservation. Some may seem like small projects, but they make a big difference in a community, like ball fields. Bear Paw Development has been managing CTEP funds for our partners for about seven years.” Steinmetz said a current CTEP project is the construction of sidewalks around the Blaine County Museum.