Pathways to Prosperity

Download the Report (PDF, 5.74 MB)
July 2012

How Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and surrounding public lands drive a powerful economic development engine, attracting employers, employees and entrepreneurs to the Crown of the Continent

A century ago, railroad tycoon James J. Hill threw his political weight behind the creation of Glacier National Park because he believed Montana’s world-class alpine wonders would prove an irresistible draw. Hill bet millions on the belief that Americans would transform the park’s wild majesty into a hub of economic development – they would travel his rails, sleep in his chalets, ride his boats, hike his trails. And along the way, they would invest millions in this international region known as the Crown of the Continent.

Hill was right.

More than 100 years have passed since Hill helped establish Glacier, and yet today’s economic development experts still insist that “as we consult with business owners and investors looking to relocate, we hear that quality of life is as key to their decisions as are tax rates, labor costs and broadband networks.”

The Crown’s leading economic developers came to that conclusion in their introduction to a new NPCA report titled Pathways to Prosperity: The Natural Roots of Economic Success in the Crown of the Continent. These are footloose economic times, they said, when employers and employees can choose where to put down roots. Increasingly, they’re choosing places like the Crown.

Certainly, these economic developers still promote the “traditional infrastructure” – the roads and schools and hospitals and airports. But guess what? Everyone else – everywhere else – is marketing that same bricks-and-mortar infrastructure.
What sets the Crown apart – its unique strength in the highly competitive business of attracting business – is the region’s “natural infrastructure.” Residents are fortunate to have inherited small, friendly communities set in a spectacular natural environment alive with recreational opportunities. That combination is in high demand and limited supply, making it central to who we are and how we make our living.

Pathways to Prosperity chronicles the experiences of business owners and economic developers, asking the simple question, “Why do you choose to live and work in the Crown?” The answer – lakes, mountains, wildlife – is universal.
And once we recognize what we value about a place – what makes it special – we can work to protect it. “To fully capitalize on our exceptional lifestyle,” the economic developers advise, “means maintaining and enhancing these invaluable assets – ensuring that our wildlands stay wild, our rivers flow clean, and our communities sustain their traditional roots even as we move into a new economy.”

Protecting these places, after all, is only good business -- just as Jim Hill predicted.

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