Community Prosperity in Lincoln County

The mission statement of the committee planning the Community Prosperity Forums is: “To enhance the prospects for community prosperity through education, community awareness and discussion of the many factors which contribute to economic development and quality of life in Lincoln County.”

With an unemployment rate that is chronically the highest in Montana and a downsized future for traditional activities like timber and mining, Lincoln County has an economy in transition. Lincoln County Community Prosperity Forums were born out of a perceived need to start thinking of new ways toward achieving prosperity for northwest Montana.

While public lands provide abundant resources for commodity production, they are also provide natural beauty as well as hunting, fishing and recreational access which connect residents to the landscape and attract visitors and new residents alike. Conservation of natural resources plays a role in sustaining a vibrant culture and economy.

A forward looking vision in which natural resources are balance for both commodity production and conservation hold the best promise for creating and sustaining Community Prosperity.

The Forums were put together by an impressive group of sponsors and organizers, including;

  • Libby Chamber of Commerce
  • Revett Minerals
  • Kootenai River Development Council
  • Molly Montana Real Estate
  • Idaho Forest Group
  • Clearwater Montana Properties
  • Lincoln County Tourism Bureau
  • Lincoln County Asbestos Resource Program
  • Libby Now!
  • Kootenai Job Service
  • Cabinet Peaks Medical Center
  • Montana Wilderness Association
  • and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

A Bit About the 2014-2015 Forum Series

Check out photos below from our Forum Series!


For more photos please click here to visit the Lincoln County Community Prosperity Facebook Page.

Our forums began in winter and spring of 2014. After a summer recess we continued in the fall of 2014 and on into 2015.  Here is a recap of our series:

Our first Forum, “Community Assets and Growing Local Business,” was held in Libby at the Ponderosa Room on Thursday, February 20, 2014 with the theme.  The featured speaker was Karl Dye, Executive Director, Bonner County Economic Development Corporation. He was joined by panelists Brigid Burke of Kootenai River Development Council; Tim Dougherty of Idaho Forest Group; and Nick Raines, Asbestos Resource Program Manager

Dye  provided an overview of how diverse and vibrant rural economies can be developed using a community’s assets and resources. He explored programs that BCEDC has used to tap into community assets and resources and offer examples of successful approaches to building a rural economy.

Our second forum, “The Importance of Anchor Industries”, was held on March 20 and featured Chad Shilling, Campus Director and Business Professor at the Lincoln County campus of Flathead Valley Community College.

Shilling was joined by panelists Tim Lindsey of Revett Minerals and Johnette Watkins, manager of Kootenai Job Service.

Our third forum “Sustainable Economies and Resilient Communities; And How the Forest Service Contributes to Social and Economic Sustainability”  was presented by Krista Gebert, the regional economist from Forest Service Regional office in Missoula, at the Libby Little Theater on April 17th.

Our 4th Community Prosperity Forum  held on May 20th, featured Greg Gianforte, who spoke about “Better Jobs Montana”, his vision for the potential for high tech jobs in Montana. Greg is the founder of Right Now Technologies. In addition to the public forum in the evening, we hosted Greg for a series of meetings with local community leaders, potential entrepreneurs, school presentations and media events.

The October 6th Community Prosperity “Forum on Healthcare” was hosted by the Cabinet Peaks Medical Center.  Judy Marshall, Human Resources Manager, acted as host and moderator and assembled a stellar line up of panelists.


  • Maria Clemons Executive Director NW Community Health Center
  • Bruce Whitfield CEO Cabinet Peaks Medical Center
  • Brad Black CEO/Medical Director CARD Clinic
  • Kathy Ann Jenkins Director Libby Care Center
  • Abby Harnett Executive Director Western MT Mental Health Center
  • Greg Rice Family Practice MD Libby Clinic
  • Micki Carvey Registered Nurse Lincoln County Public Health

This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the many services and benefits provided by Libby’s healthcare community and the significant impact that healthcare has on the economy!

We kicked off the fall season on Oct 7th with a panel discussion on Healthcare at the Libby’s Cabinet Peaks Medical Center Cafeteria. This Forum explored the current state of various organizations providing health care in Lincoln County. The panel will discuss challenges and opportunities these organizations face, the benefits they bring to the community and trends for the future.

Our Nov 18th, Forum, “Making Cents of Business Loans, Small Grants and other Incentives” featured a panel of local and state experts on how to grow small businesses. This forum focused on the challenges faced by business owners who wish to grow their companies or startups ready to put down roots. Hosted by the Kootenai Job Service and moderated by Johnette Watkins, a panel of 7 experts outlined how these funding sources can be found and accessed, provided general information about their agency, the programs they operate, and how they can assist with business start up and expansion, as well as workforce training and retention.

Kootenai Job Service personnel discussed briefly the WIA On-The-Job Training program, the BEAR (Business Expansion & Retention) program, and the Incumbent Worker Training. Kristin Smith of Cabinet Mountains Brewery explained how she successfully negotiated steps necessary to help fund the brewery startup in downtown Libby.

Johnette Watkins of Kootenai Job Service moderated the panel, which included

  • Annmarie Robinson, Montana Dept. of Commerce
  • John Donovan and Rena Carlson, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • John W. Balsam, Director, Small Business Development Center, Flathead Valley Community College
  • Kristin Smith, Cabinet Mountains Brewery
  • And Tina Oliphant, Executive Director, Lincoln County Port Authority/Kootenai River Development Council

After a winter break we continued with our spring 2015 line up:

“Strengthening Our Recreational Economy”  was held on Wed Feb 18th 6pm at the Ponderosa Room in Libby.

Visitors are already coming to Lincoln County and paying to play in our mountains and on our lakes and rivers. Increasing and augmenting this aspect of business in Lincoln County was the subject of this information-packed forum co-moderated by Tina Oliphant, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Port Authority and Kootenai River Development Council and Molly Kiernan, of Molly Montana Realty.

Dan Ackerman, president Libby Rod and Gun Club talks about the potential expansion of the Libby Shooting Range. Dan was joined by Libby Rod and Gun Club members Mike Ciran who talked about their youth shooting programs and Jay Sheffield who talked about “Big Bore” Tournaments.

Featured guest speakers were Lee Boman, founding member of Seeley Lake ROCKS! and board member of Seeley Lake Community Foundation and Greg Fortin, owner and lead guide for Glacier Adventure Guides. Lee and Greg described what their communities and organizations do to attract recreationists and keep them coming back for more.

Local panelists included Chris Savage and Mark Mason.

Mason, recently retired Forest Service Recreation Manager and avid outdoor recreationist, represented the Libby Cross Country Ski Club and talked about local perspectives on recreational opportunities and volunteerism.

Savage, Forest Supervisor, Kootenai National Forest, talked about the upcoming Recreational Strategy Plan for the region and the forest.

After the formal presentations were over, John Donovan from the Small Business Administration office in Helena offered a few remarks, insights and suggestions. Jerrry Wandler, of the Troy Snowmobile Club talked about the impact snowmobiling has on the local economy. And, Dejon Raines talks about the Tour de Koocanusa Bike event.

Our March 11th Forum, “Stepping up Tourism in Kootenai River Country,” was held at the Ponderosa Room in Libby. Co-moderators for this event were Tina Oliphant, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Port Authority and Kootenai River Development Council and Molly Kiernan, of Molly Montana Realty.

Tina Oliphant, Executive Director of the Kootenai River Development Council, opened the evening with an overview of the importance of Tourism on local economic development

Daren Short from the Ignitors Car Club then offered a short presentation about the impact of their annual event.

Featured presenters  included Pam Gosink, Racene Friede and Kristin Smith.

Pam Gosnick, Sales and Constituent Services Bureau Chief, Montana Office Of Tourism in the Department of Commerce. Pam outlined the impact tourism has for Montana, why people come, why they return, what they want and how to use local assets to create and implement a tourism marketing program and build a more robust tourism economy. Pam offered insights about Department of Tourism resources.

Racene Friede, Executive Director of Glacier Country Tourism offered an overview of destination marketing organizations in Montana and how Glacier Country brings folks to Northwest Montana. Racene addressed how local communities can develop strategies to bring in tourists.

Kristin Smith, local entrepreneur and one of the founding members of Libby Now, introduced this new group and their theme: “Kootenai River Country Go Wild” and talked about how their efforts are focused on bringing people to Libby and the surrounding area.

Local panelists Susie Rice and Dave Blackburn presented their perspectives on successful tourism projects in the community. Rice, organizer of the annual STOKR (Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River) bike ride, discussed how her 21-year-old event brings hundreds of bicyclist from the surrounding region every May. Blackburn, owner of Kootenai Angler — established in 1982 — talked about his successful business and how he has brought guests into Lincoln County for over 30 years.

Member of the audience stepped up after the formal panel to offer their input:

Tony Brown, former mayor of Troy talked about the Troy 4th of July Celebration and hints at big future plans for the area.

Blues Festival Board members Johnette Watkins and Brent Schrum Brent Schrum talked about that event’s huge impact on Tourism in Lincoln County.

April 29th, 2015 – Building on the energy and enthusiasm from our recent forums on recreation and tourism, Vicky Soderberg from Cygnet Strategies was our featured presenter  for an interactive session “Building a Remarkable, Resilient Community – with Your Input”.

Vicky Soderberg from Cygnet Strategies conducted an interactive workshop to help develop a sense of place for our area, the basis  for the next steps in planning a prosperous future for Lincoln County.

Community Prosperity 2016 – Visitor Assessment for Libby and Troy

Although the Community Prosperity Forum series ended in May 2015, the work to build a better, stronger, more vibrant community continues.

Kootenai River Development Council (KRDC) of Libby, MT, has engaged Montana-based community marketing firm Cygnet Strategies to conduct a visitor assessment and help develop a short-term action plan for Libby and Troy in Lincoln County, Montana.

Tina Oliphant, executive director of KRDC, said recently, “Assessing our community’s image will lead to specific recommendations to build the vitality of core areas of our communities. This is a first step leading to larger strategies to attract outside business investment and an employee work base.”

This project is made possible by a grant from Montana’s Main Street Program using matching support from Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) and the Montana Wilderness Association.

FSPW executive director Phil Hough said, “We’re excited that the positive dialogue and energy from our Community Prosperity Forums helped to bring support from Main Street Montana for this current visitor assessment project.”

During the previous two years, the FSPW-sponsored Community Prosperity Forums focused on alternative economies and a sense of place, spotlighting the value of moving beyond the traditional perception of the local economies and limitations. A focus of the Forums in spring 2015 included Retail Marketing and Tourism Economy, which will benefit from the results of the upcoming project.

A Visitor Assessment presentation/workshop is scheduled for: Wednesday September 21st, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Alternative School (otherwise known as the Libby School Administration Building) (724 Louisiana Ave). In the conference room.

Snapshot of the Project:

In June and July of 2016 Cygnet Strategies conducted a Visitor Assessment in Libby and Troy, Montana. A description of the assessment team’s process and objectives follows:


A team of 3-5 people (each representing a different demographic/market and all of whom have never visited Libby or Troy) were asked to plan a trip to south Lincoln County. Each team member used websites, social media, and guidebooks – whatever tools they normally use for travel planning. They begin by planning a trip within assigned parameters and then focus more specifically on Libby and Troy. The goal is to see what stands out for them, whether they would visit and what they would do, where they would stay.


The community assessment then involved several days of on-site work where a team looks at and experiences the communities through the eyes of a tourist. In most cases they do this anonymously to simulate the experience other visitors and potential new residents have. They consider:

• Attractions – what is there to see and do?
• Sense of place – what makes you different, particularly from neighboring towns?
• Services – where can we eat or use the restroom?
• Marketing – where can we find information, does the reality match the marketing materials?
• Retail offerings – what kind of shopping is available?
• Customer Service and Ambiance – are you welcoming, friendly and helpful?
• Critical Mass – do you have it?
• Wayfinding – can we find places, do we get lost?
• Lodging – where can we stay, what are the options like?

PUBLIC WORKSHOP – Post project (What we will cover on Sept 21st)

This interactive presentation is more like a conversation filled with photos and eye-opening observations about many topics, including:

• An honest look at where the community is today in terms of meeting visitors needs
• A snapshot view of whether your marketing is closing the sale
• Ideas about quickly and affordably enhancing strengths and diminishing weaknesses
• Ways to build upon – and preserve – sense of place and heritage
• Where the area is today in terms of its visitor experience and community appeal
• Recommendations for enhancing strengths
• Recommendations for diminishing weaknesses
• Information about issues that arose during the workshop
• Independent recommendations for Troy and Libby, as applicable
• Suggested next steps

A Report will follow summarizing all the above and a proposed action plan and funding options.

For more details about the workshop and if you are planning on attending please RSVP to Tina Oliphant.

Tina Oliphant, Executive Director
Lincoln County Port Authority/Kootenai River Development Council
Voice: 406.293.8406
Cell: 406-544-6578

As we go into planning the next level of activities anyone who has energy, ideas or is simply interested in staying in touch is invited to provide comments below or contact one of our steering committee members.

For more information, contact Phil Hough 208-946-9127 or