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Mayoral candidates explain their plans for job growth in Missoula

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MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula voters tell us good-paying jobs are important to them.

We asked both candidates running for Missoula mayor about their plans for job growth

Lisa Triepke is a marketing and communications specialist challenging Mayor John Engen.

"One of the things we have heard on the campaign trail is that when new businesses are trying to come into town they are hitting road blocks and red tape, and the process is complicated.  We need to simplify that.  We need to be able to court industries and new businesses to come into town and to stay in town and have the city respond to them in a customer service friendly manner, so that if there are requirements for them to follow or adhere to, in order to bring their business into town, it's clear and concise and there is a streamline path.  Right now that's not happening.  I think that if we can promote the city as a business-friendly environment we'll be able to attract more high-paying jobs," said Triepke.

Engen is seeking his fourth term in office.

"We have been working since 2010.  We formed the Missoula Economic Partnership.  Mostly private sector people are in it.  The partnership is working to understand what it is we want from job growth, what kind of industry we hope to attract, how we retain and nourish local industry and what sort of base level of wage we are interested in.  In the Economic Partnership we work with folks who are paying $15 an hour or more.  That's the base threshold.  As part of that we have seen job growth.  We have more folks working in Missoula today than we have ever seen before, but we are not done.  There is a lot more to be done.  Part of what government does is make sure that we have a great place to live, play and work.  So when we create a community that is safe, that's functional, that's fun, that's interesting, where the air is clean and the water is pure, we build an environment where folks want to do business.  More and more we are seeing, particularly in a world where you are not necessarily tied to a place in terms of employment, but access to labor, access to technology; we are really in the cat-bird seat in terms of being a place where people want to work and start businesses.  That's why we end up on lists of the best places for entrepreneurs, the fastest growing places for entrepreneurs, etc., and we are going to continue that work," said Engen.

We asked, do you feel there is too much red tape for businesses and industries to come in here to Missoula?

"I don't.  In fact, we work very hard to help businesses come in here.  We have a fundamental responsibility to make sure that what we do is safe and matches community goals and values.  It's unusual that I don't have a meeting a week or more with a business that is interested in doing business here.  We help them find ways to do that business and find out if they are the right fit.  For example I will give you South Crossing that sat vacant for some time.  Today there are likely 230 folks working today who weren't working there before.  We worked very closely with the developer of that project to ensure that they made good use of the land.  They got more businesses on that piece of property than they were planning on.  Because of our preparation around infrastructure, like traffic signals and sidewalks, our standards for parking lots and access, we've even helped with utility relocation.  All those things come together to buy down the cost of doing business.  If you are in a position to buy down costs you are in a much better position to help a business grow," said Engen.

Sunday each candidate will lay out their most important goals for Missoula, over the next four years.


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