Annette Hayden Havre Daily News email@example.com
Hill County Commissioners set the community on a course of methodical expansion towards prosperity Thursday. The special meeting was held to receive public input on and to discuss the possibility of creating a new industrial park or parks near Havre. Unanimously, commissioners voted to move forward with research of project parameters and possible locations. Commissioners also identified Bear Paw Development as Hill County's working-partner in conducting the study. "The time has come to do this," said Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development. "It has been explored in the past, and there has recently been a lot of interest. I don't know if this is a 'build it and they will come,' but we know what will happen if we don't. The commissioners did build an industrial park in the 1970s west of town and it benefited the tax base, was a benefit job-wise and I think this is an appropriate step." Tuss said neither the commissioners nor Bear Paw Development held any pre-conceived notions of where a new industrial park or parks might be built. The motion carried Thursday only put the process of exploration in gear. "There will be many factors, like availability of water and sewer, proximity to rail, highway and air transportation, which way the wind blows," Tuss said. "It will require working with the community to identify possible locations." Early Thursday morning, county commissioners Kathy Bessette, Mike Anderson and Mike Wendland had moved to adopt an interim growth policy allowing immediate maneuverability in progres s i s sues. Bear Paw Development is currently drafting a long-range growth policy. Tuss and commissioners said throughout the coming year numerous public-input opportunities will present in the processes of finalizing the growth policy and identifing factors for a publicly owned industrial park. "A publicly-owned industrial park would give Bear Paw Development the opportunity to find funds to build the required infrastructure," Tuss said. "The industrial park could be ready with water, sewer, egress, electrical, high-band Internet all of the things businesses looking to locate want. If an industrial park were not in public hands it would be impossible to secure infrastructure funding." Montana Department of Commerce Regional Development Officer Randy Hanson told commissioners they were among numerous other community leaders in the state considering and building industrial parks, such as Lewistown, Shelby, Conrad and more. "There is a standard out there," Hanson said. "There are check lists of issues to consider, depending on the types of businesses that would locate in an industrial park. Such as the malt plant in Grea Falls needed to be where the air is pure to not contaminate the malt. There are many issues to be cognizant of. We are happy to participate and when an industrial park is ready and business come in, we are ready to assist them with their financing." Wendell said he had expected to receive public comment during the meeting, of which there was none, but he added that the current phase was to take the steps needed to explore requirements and possibilities, and that many more opportunities for public comment would come during the next year.