Sunday, December 4

Retail Development should not Encroach Malmstrom

I am not opposed to retail development. To my mind, development brings both jobs and retail shopping "opportunities" help an area bring new residents. Sometime in the coming weeks, I will write more about this.

However, I am concerned that the planned retail development on the East side of 10th Avenue South will encroach on the Malmstrom runway. Today's Trib ran a very informative story about the issue.

More than any other factor, Malmstrom Air Force Base is the lynchpin of the Great Falls economy. Without Malmstrom, we might as well all close up shop and find somewhere else to live. Our town will die without that base. Period.

That runway is not now being used. However, reviving that runway into a future flying mission for the base is a goal that every Northcentral Montana resident should support.

Nothing should be built that encroaches on that runway or the mission of the base. A retail mall can be built elsewhere.

Keeping the Air Force happy with our hospitality is just too important.


david said...

I actually have mixed feelings about this issue...both sides of the argument have merit...tough issue.

Mike said...

Seems to make sense to me Aaron. What I think GF needs to start doing, and sooner rather than later, is preparing for the contingency that Malstrom will be closed during the next round of BRAC hearings in a number of years. It seems to me, from what little I know of the base (and others can correct me if I'm wrong) that is no longer seems a "fit" in the scheme of national security. Malstrom is/was a relic of the Cold War and will certainly be closed at some point in the future.

Treasure State Jew said...


I would be interested in reading your thoughts.

People should be able to do what they want with their private property, but the potential accident zone of Malmstrom's runway should remain a no-building zone. I don't really consider that a taking, any more than it is a taking if you keep people from building a city below sea level, held back only by 200 year old dikes (wait, didn't that happen, and aren't we now paying for it?)


Treasure State Jew said...


I think that you overstate the case. Malmstrom's mission seems to me to be secure as long as the US continues to use missles as part of its defense strategy. I don't think that there are any real options on the table for doing away with those missles.

GF does need to have contingency plans in place. However, there is no viable plan that can replace the revenue and people brought to our area by the USAF. Our only real option, if Malmstrom were to close, would be to slash this city down to about the size of Havre or Ft. Benton. Still a nice place to live, but the drive to Bozeman for groceries would get kind of tedious.

What does Malmstrom offer and why should it stay open? Well, beyond the missles, we have a supportive population, an unencroached base and runway and some of the most open skies in the northern US. We have something like 340 annual days of sunshine, with visibility as far as you can get. Considering that we are also in one of the most Northern areas in the CONUS, I have to think that there is value in an expanded mission here.

That makes keeping that runway viable until the USAF re-opens it even more important.

Treasure State Jew said...

Be nice if I could spell, hunh? missiles.

ZenPanda said...

*My 2cents*
My husband works on the base. He worked in long term planning for several years there is no plans for the missiles to be removed before 2020. But congress can change that if they wish.
Malmstrom replaced the flying wing with Red Horse- a very solid choice & viable alternative. Cold weather is hell on the aircraft. One more idea may be to expand helicopter wing.
GF has to build more than just Wal-Mart to help our economy regardless of the base. (Am I the only person who has noticed there are no hotels on the east end of town?)

I think we have the potential to be a self-sustaining town without Malmstrom. It just means breaking out of the box.
I wish I had the cure all; I love GF & hope to remain for a long time.

Treasure State Jew said...


The long term viablity of Malmstrom is a question. There is no doubt about that. Our problem is that we are oh-so-so very dependent on revenue that Malmstrom bring us.

If Malmstrom were to close in, say -- eight years, and we were to find out today, what could we do about it? On what would we base our economy after 2013?

The answer is a big question mark. In the 35 years since Anaconda pulled out, we have not provided any real economic base to our town. Agriculture is shrinking, mining is gone, there is no manufacturing to speak of and all we have left is our hospitality to the USAF.

Our Chamber of Commerce is trying. They are doing a great job, but a bunch of regional call centers paying $8-9/hour will not replace the money that the Air Force brings to our community. The only thing that would bring that kind of revenue would be manufacturing jobs.

We are making progress. In the past decade, our town has attracted a pasta plant and a malting plant. In both cases, we are adding value to the agricultural products produced in North-central Montana.

I suggest to you that these type of plants are our best avenue for long-term growth and survival. In doing so, we will encourage the redevelopment of agriculture throughout Northcentral Montana (which will bring back the implement dealers) and create high-paying jobs that can be the basis of an economy.

A few months ago, the Tribune ran a fascinating story on how Southern Alberta redefined its economy based on food-processing plants. They did so through a very expensive series of irrigation districts criss-crossing the province. Of course, they had the oil revenue to pay for it.

Read more about how Alberta did it here.

ZenPanda said...

Aaron, since agriculture is such a big part of Montana that sounds like a very workable idea.
How do we get people to buy into it? I would be happy to do whatever I can to get GF building itself up.
What other types of plants can we bring in? What can the average GF resident like me do? (I am politically challenged)

Treasure State Jew said...

Aye, but there is the rub! How do we do it?

Well, for one thing, I know that it is not going to come quickly. We are talking about building an infrastructure that can support an almost entirely new economy for our region.

For one thing, we have to push our elected officials to make long term plans toward this goal. At some point, we also will have to pony up the dough.

dona stebbins said...

I would like to invite everyone to attend the Economic Summit next week. It promises to address the very issues you have been discussing here.
See you there!

Treasure State Jew said...


Thanks! I think that is very useful. Can you post details (date, time and location)?