New grants awarded in community-driven eastern Montana tourism initiative
From Montana Department of commerce
HELENA — The Montana Department of Commerce announced grant awards as part of a new, community-led initiative to encourage long-term tourism and economic development in eastern Montana communities, including in Blaine County.
The Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative is a collaboration among the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development at Commerce and communities across eastern Montana formed in response to community leaders seeking to strengthen local economies. Over the last year, local policymakers, business leaders and community members partnered with the Department to share ideas to diversify the regional economy, including raising awareness of eastern Montana as a tourism destination.
“Communities in eastern Montana are planning for smart, long-term economic growth to bring more travelers to the region, which will support job growth and opportunities,” said Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice. “One part of the economic equation in eastern Montana includes making sure visitors in and around Montana know they can find breathtaking experiences in every corner of our state. That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with these communities.”
The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development is investing $1.3 million in regional marketing, grants, staff expertise and access to new data to support the region’s goals of enhancing marketing efforts, strengthening tourism amenities and creating vibrant communities where families want to live.
One of the grants is $27,000 to Bear Paw Battlefield Campaign Project in the Central Montana Tourism Region to increase tourism to Bear Paw Battlefield south of Chinook, where Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrendered to the U.S. Army Oct. 5, 1877 after the tribe’s 1,100-mile flight from Oregon, just 40 miles from the Canadian border.
That is one of the initiative’s long-term investments that include funding awards to eight communities totaling $365,250 through the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative Grant Program. This grant funding will be used to build or enhance existing tourism infrastructure, raise awareness of eastern Montana as a tourist destination and support sustainable economic development in the communities and nearby areas.
“We have untold potential in eastern Montana to share our spectacular landscapes and unique, authentic experiences with visitors who can’t find what we have to offer anywhere else,” said Beth Epley, executive director of the Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation located in Baker. “No one knows our story better than we do, but we need enhanced resources to get the word out about the untapped adventures right here in the eastern half of our state. With the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative, we can start to build the infrastructure we need to support more tourism, attract more visitors and give them a place to stay — all of which will help grow our local economy in the long-run.”
The other Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative Grant awards will go to:
• MonDak Motorcycle Loop Project: $32,000, Route will run from Baker to Alzada (Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation)
• “Living the Sloth Life” Project: $51,000, Billings (ZooMontana)
• Eastern Montana Astrotourism Product Development Project: $75,000, Project spans the entire Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative area (Montana’s Missouri River Country)
• Event Stage and Digital Screen Project: $75,000, Glasgow and surrounding communities (Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture)
• Fergus County Wayfinding System Project: $35,000, Lewistown and surrounding recreational trails (Fergus County)
• Portable Performance Stage: $65,000, Daniels County Museum Association (Scobey)
• Terry Kiosk Project: $5,250, Terry and surrounding communities (Prairie County Economic Development Council)
Additional grant awards will be made later this year, along with further updates about the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative.