“Jean knows healthy businesses invest in our community to enhance our quality of life, which is a vital component of attracting and retaining a trained workforce. She knows how to budget our tax dollars and uses good judgement when sending issues to voters such as upgrading our schools and providing new recreation opportunities. Her common sense leadership is an asset to all who live in Missoula County.”
— Nick Kaufman, Missoula Building Industry Association Director, Missoula Chamber of Commerce, Past Chair
From meeting with businesses personally to helping launch two of Missoula County’s leading economic development organizations, Jean Curtiss has spent decades fighting for good jobs for Missoula County families. She’s worked to help support redevelopment of the old Bonner mill site which is continuing to thrive, has added more manufacturing, a brewery and a beautiful amphitheater. More than 400 people now work at the mill site again.
As a leader in economic development in the region, Curtiss has worked tirelessly to bring new jobs to Missoula County. First, serving as the President of BitterRoot Economic Development District, BREDD, and then as a founding member of the Missoula Economic Partnership.
As President of the BitterRoot Economic Development District (BREDD), she’s helped lead efforts to support local businesses by writing and administering grants for feasibility studies, business ideas, job creation grants and workforce training grants. Missoula County has successfully written many Big Sky Trust Fund grants to the Montana Department of Commerce. BREDD is now part of Missoula Economic Partnership providing businesses a full spectrum of services in one organization.
Curtiss represents Missoula County as a founding member of Missoula Economic Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership focusing on business retention and expansion, relocation of new businesses, innovation and entrepreneurial business startups and workforce development.
MEP focuses on diverse businesses from manufacturing and technology to forest products and renewables. MEP has also been a key partner in improving air service to and from Missoula. American Airlines will begin service between Missoula and Dallas, Texas in June. Additional airline choices result in lower airfares on all airlines. As we attract new jobs to the area, these new transportation opportunities are great for the Missoula economy.
"Jean is passionate about our community and the people who live here. She is open minded, willing to listen to new ideas and be innovative in implementing them. She has long been a champion of economic development and figuring out how to create strong industries in our ever changing global economy. This alone takes dedication, a willingness to understand local and global issues, and willing to implement new ideas."
-Marcy Allen, past executive director BitterRoot Economic Development District
Workforce Development & Attainable Housing
Missoula County partnered with the City of Missoula and Missoula Economic Partnership to do a Workforce Study in 2017. We were surprised to learn that there are over 1,100 current training programs and numerous providers available to the job-seeking workforce. Included in the provider list are the University of Montana, Missoula College, Missoula County Public Schools Adult Education, MT Code School, ikuw Solutions, several online schools, MT Rail Link and Sage Truck Driving School. The next step will be to work together and develop a better system of connecting those seeking jobs and additional education to the providers of courses and the businesses needing employees. Curtiss will be part of the discussion to decide where this new coordinating office should be located to help job seekers and businesses.
While Curtiss has been a champion for economic development, she’s also worked to address the gap between wages and housing costs in Missoula County.
In her role as Missoula County Commissioner, she’s partnered with the Missoula Organization of Realtors and others to look at housing. In January, we unveiled ‘Making Missoula Home’, A Path to Attainable Housing. The study has several recommendations for the city and county to work together and help develop a variety of housing choices across the price spectrum and Curtiss will be continue to advocate for a workable solution to housing attainability.
Missoula County is a great place to start a business or grow a business. We have a strong workforce and creative people developing their business ideas. Support of local businesses and those looking to relocate here through economic development programs, such as the ones in which Curtiss participates, creates a healthy, diverse, and resilient economy.