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Brown: Havre example of tough place making good, tough people


January 16, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Owner of the Northern Broadcasting System Taylor Brown speaks Wednesday at the 111th Annual Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Meeting in the Duck Inn Olympic Room. Brown spoke on his past and his faith in the farming community in Havre.

The 2020 president of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce said the speaker at the Chamber's 11th annual meeting and banquet Wednesday is a well-known voice in the area.

"Agriculture is a key to our community, it's a staple in our economy and anyone who grew up listening to (KPQX radio) 92.5 like I did, it was like the unwritten rule on the farm that when Taylor Brown's voice came on, you knew it was time to stop talking," President Bethany Chinadle said. "It didn't matter if you were in the middle of a story, you stopped talking and once Taylor was done then you could continue your conversation." 

Brown, the owner of Northern Broadcasting Systems that includes Northern Ag Network, Northern News Network, Northern Sports Network and Billings' oldest radio station was the keynote speaker at the Chamber's annual banquet Wednesday.

He is an agricultural broadcaster who grew up on a family ranch in eastern Montana near Sand Springs, between Grass Range and Jordan.

"I've been in agriculture my whole career, but most of my career I've been a Main Street businessman as well," he said. "When I come to Havre, I'm always conscious, it's about my second-favorite part of the state - my favorite part of the state is, of course, in eastern Montana where I grew up. - And the reason I think I like this area so much is because, like it says on the podium here, 'It's the people.'"

He said that he doesn't think a place attracts good people, he thinks because it's hard here in Havre, harder to do business here, it makes good people.

"There's people who say, 'Why in the world would you want to live in Havre or in Jordan,' where I grew up, 'why would you want to live where it's that hard?' Well, again, it's because of the people, because the places that are hard to do business or hard to live make strong people, make strong neighbors, make strong communities, and that's why I think it's important that we recognize that as a Chamber, because our community and our customers, our staff and our employees come out of that pool of people," Brown said.

He said his family has ranched in eastern Montana for 60 years this coming April, adding that April 1, 1960, his family moved to Sand Springs.

"My mom always used to say that was the biggest April Fools trick we ever played on Montana because we ranched for about 40 years in Wyoming before we moved to Montana," he said. 

He said his son Travis Brown and daughter-in-law Mary run the L O Cattle Company in Sand Springs, and their children are the fifth generation on that ranch. 

In 1979, Brown said, he had a friend in the cattle industry by the name of Conrad Burns who had started Northern Ag Network in 1975. Burns got him interested in broadcasting.

He said the man people hear on the radio today producing agriculture news is his youngest son, Colter Brown. 

Taylor Brown also served in the state Legislature as a Republican senator from 2009 to 2017, including serving as majority whip in 2011-12. He could not run for re-election due to term limits.

This week being Legislative Week, he said, it is important for the Chamber, for the business climate and those who are in agriculture to discuss political issues such as tax reform, "like what are we going to do about Montana's tax structure, especially since, you know, with Colstrip One and Two closed down, really does anybody have a plan for that?"

  "Do you have a plan for how Montana is going to operate if we don't have coal? Most of us are looking at the budget and saying, 'Wait a minute, I'm not sure we can operate without that," he said. "Then this week, of course, a couple of days ago we hear that RY Timber closed down in Townsend permanently, really, so we aren't going to use coal, we aren't going to use timber, what are we going to do here?"

He said one way for Montana to continue is by raising property taxes, charging property owners heavier, adding that property owners are competing with some people who don't have to pay local property taxes and that one of the discussions that are going on during Legislative week is, "How do you compete in this online cybermarketing world?"

"Like a lot of things in our world, we know things have to change," he said. 

He said he heard a comment some time ago.

"When there's a difficult problem in front of you, our job as leaders, our job, this is your job and my job, is to keep ideas alive until the politically unacceptable becomes inevitable," he said he heard.

"That's our job and that's why we have associations and organizations like this one," Brown added

He said as of right now he is done working in politics, but is friends with Republican Montana Attorney General Tim Fox who is running for governor and helping him with his campaign.

Brown said the last time he was in Havre was after the Lodgepole Complex fire in 2017, and when that happened it brought a lot of community pride and a lot of needs in the community which had to rebuild from the fire.

"One of the things, I think that gave me more pride than anything was the day after that fire went past our ranch and left a little island around our village, our neighbors kept the fire from burning up our buildings, our corrals and our barn, but there was just a little island. You could look out from our shop in any direction it was black as far as the eye could see except for that little square mile which was our ranch," he said. "The next day, I get a call from some collegiate members of Montana State University-Northern stockgrowers here on campus, they called and said 'What do you need? What can we help with?' The only thing we could think of the worst was fencing because we had 66 miles of fence to build on our ranch alone."

He said the Northern students were down to his ranch within 48-hours and were building fence along Highway 200, adding that he'll never forget how Northern helped him rebuild his ranch that day, and many others.

"You have to rely on your neighbors, you have to rely on others who can help you and that's why we have a Chamber of Commerce, that's why we work together," he said. 

Forty years ago, in the 1980s, he said that is when he started on the radio and as for the 198's that was a time of building strong people and strong relationships - as well as the interest being was 19 percent, seven years of drought also occurred.

"Your town here is something, you probably aren't aware of this, but the rest of the state is watching you, the rest of the state watches what you do here because you have learned how to address those hard times," Brown said. "You are a survivor town, much like Butte is that kind of town. Why? Because it's hard here and we have to neighbor, we have to help each other, we have to work together and that's what makes the people here great."

He is also proud not only of what is going on at Montana State University-Northern, but also the downtown revitalization work in Havre.

He also showed a list of things that are different today than the 1980s and '90s:

• Things are a lot more diversified, in means of the crops and marketing 

• There is a focus of adding value to the crops

• Forced to use less labor, but staff values are different 

• Advancement of technology 

• Dependence on neighbors has gone up

"When you worry about your economy and say 'what is our economy going to be like here in Havre, Lewistown or Miles City?' Well I say this, be glad that agriculture is in your economy because we are still going to be here doing this next year," Brown said. 


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