Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Newstalk KGVO's Talk Back show has a new regular feature called Missoula ECON 101.

It began on Friday as KGVO welcomed the Missoula Economic Partnership and Blackfoot Communications for the first edition of ‘Missoula ECON 101’

Representing The Missoula Economic Partnership was the chairman and CEO Grant Kier, who briefly described the origin and purpose of the organization.

Missoula ECON 101 is a New Feature with the Missoula Economic Partnership

“We were formed as a response to the Great Recession,” began Kier. “A group of community leaders, our city mayor, our county commissioners and a lot of business leaders sat down together and said we have a huge problem. We are seeing our mills shut down, our stores shut down, our downtown emptying out and we have a whole lot of people who are really talented and don't have any jobs.”

Kier said at that point the foundation was laid for the MEP as it exists today.

“We needed to combine forces of the public and private sector and start to do something serious about this and develop a plan and get into the game of recruiting the kinds of businesses and companies that will help us rebuild a healthier economy, a more resilient economy, so that the next time they are these big shocks, people can stay employed, businesses will stay open and functioning and will be stronger and better for it as an entire community,” he said. “So that initial focus of MEP was fundamentally about how do we bring in new businesses and help businesses grow fast and add jobs.”

The First Guest of the Program was Jason Williams CEO of Blackfoot Communications

Chairman of Blackfoot Communications Jason Williams told the Talk Back audience about how the COVID pandemic helped to usher in a whole new universe for broadband connectivity.

“One thing that COVID did, is that it shined a very bright light on the need for connectivity, whether it's for education, whether it's for health care, whether it's for entertainment,” said Williams. “Everybody watches and streams video now, there's a variety of things, and what we've known for a long time because of Montana's vast geography is that we lack broadband connectivity in a lot of places across the state.”

Williams provided a brief background sketch of Blackfoot Communications and how the reach of the company is rapidly growing.

Up Next on Missoula ECON 101 will be Missoula's Rivers and Recreation

“Blackfoot has been around for nearly 70 years,” he said. “You know we were founded up the Blackfoot River Valley and we started out providing telephone service, but we provide broadband connectivity on the west side of Missoula up the Interstate 90 corridor and Highway 200 Corridor all the way to the Idaho border, and then on the east side of Missoula all the way up the Interstate 90 corridor east from the Blackfoot River Valley to Drummond, Phillipsburg, and Georgetown Lake.”

Click here to listen to the entire conversation with Grant Kier and Jason Williams.

The next edition of Missoula ECON 101 will focus on Missoula’s rivers and the recreation economy.

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