State officials help Livingston plan ahead

Johnathan Hettinger -
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Livingston community needs to plan for its future, or else no one will.

That’s the message Tash Wisemiller, Montana’s Main Street Program coordinator, had for the Livingston City Commission and about 35 or so community members who showed up for a special commission meeting Tuesday.

Livingston is applying to join the program. Wisemiller gave examples of how the program has helped fund projects across Montana to help improve communities. But he said it’s important for the community to lead those efforts and envision the future.

“We’re also providing funds to implement those visions,” Wisemiller said. “Seed money if you will.”

The Livingston City Commission received the first of two training sessions from the Montana Department of Commerce Tuesday. On Nov. 8, Galen Steffens, a land use planning specialist with the Montana Department of Commerce, will hold a “Planning 101” meeting at the City-County Complex at 4 p.m. to discuss the importance of planning in helping communities prepare for a successful future.

The program is run by the Montana Department of Commerce, which awards grants that help towns with economic development, urban revitalization and historic preservation. There are 27 member communities in the program.

Wisemiller said part of the reason the program can have success is because it changes the way people think about issues in town — rather than expecting a building to be empty, businesses and towns can think about businesses to bring in.

“It’s an opportunity to fill those buildings,” Wisemiller said.

He gave the example of what he called “White Suffering Springs” — the town where he grew up. He said that Red Ants Pants was able to help reenergize White Sulphur Springs, leading to new businesses, but that was because the community had a vision on how to take advantage of what makes it special.

Because of those efforts, the town’s disparaging nickname is no longer applicable, Wisemiller said.

He said he was nervous speaking to Livingston because the community has so much going for it, including being featured in The New York Times.

“You have so much to work from and so many great things happening in this community, but the work is never over,” Wisemiller said.