Opinion

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Facing Main

Importance of Cities in Rural America

Brookings Institute names Kalispell as one of three cities in the country that have the potential to be strong centers for jobs and opportunities

I use Google alerts and it typically delivers timely and relevant news about craft beer and the brewing industry to my inbox daily. I also have it set up to send me alerts about Kalispell or Glacier National Park. Two weeks ago I could not believe the alert I received about Kalispell. The Brookings Institute released a report, “Why rural America needs cities,” and the banner photo for the story was Kalispell’s Main Street. I was impressed and curious: What did the report have to say about my town?

The report argues that rural America — and our entire country, really — needs the help of cities for economic growth and revitalization. The types of cities that can help fuel our economy, create great jobs, contribute to cultural development and community building, and provide educational opportunities at the community college level in mid-size metro areas and micropolitan areas. This is where Kalispell comes in. In fact, the Brookings Institute names Kalispell as one of three cities in the country that have the potential to be strong centers for jobs and opportunities.

This is exciting news and as a member of the Kalispell Business Improvement District board. I’m thrilled to have an economic report reiterate what I and the rest of the board sees occurring in Kalispell, especially in the downtown area. The mission of the Kalispell BID is to promote and foster economic growth and stability within the district while preserving downtown Kalispell’s rich historic and cultural identity. Our board volunteers to serve this district and works to understand the needs of property owners, businesses, residents, and visitors who work, play, and live in our area. Based on feedback from participants in the district as well as instructions from the Kalispell mayor and city council, we aspire to create projects that best serve and support the community, like beautification efforts and façade improvement grants.

Small towns like ours are posed to contribute in significant ways. Even more exciting is after reading the report, efforts like what is occurring within the Kalispell BID and the thriving development of businesses, culture and arts, community services in the downtown area demonstrates that what we accomplish together positively impacts, not just Kalispell but the whole nation.

So, while I already knew that Kalispell has a ton of potential, I was pleasantly surprised to read that the Brookings Institute sees that potential, too. Perhaps other cities will take a look at that photo of Kalispell’s Main Street and be inspired.

Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.