The greater Yellowstone region stretches across Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, encompassing dozens of counties and mile after mile of unparalleled natural resources. Its stunning beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year and is the primary basis for economic development in the area. As a result, residents and tourists alike see significant value in preserving the environment and ensuring its existence for future generations.
That concern for the Yellowstone ecosystem as a vital community asset is the underlying principle of the Yellowstone Business Partnership.
“The Yellowstone business partnership is a non-profit organization that works at an eco-system level,” says the organization’s communications specialist Kim Billimoria. “It was founded by a group of business people that recognized that if we’re going to preserve the greater Yellowstone ecosystem – which is one of the largest last intact ecosystems in the entire world – we have to harness the power of business.”
In order for the tri-state region to continue competing in the marketplace, it must make the most of its natural resources. From the Yellowstone Business Partnership’s vantage point, local businesses should be committed to the region economically, socially and environmentally. Doing so will pay big dividends for everyone, as the entire Yellowstone area thrives because of the local ecosystem’s existence. If the ecosystem were to collapse, so would people’s desire to visit the small towns and city centers throughout the three western states.
According to Billimoria, one of the primary ways in which the Yellowstone Business Partnership is seeking to address this issue is by helping to facilitate dialogue between communities about their shared futures. The Yellowstone Business Partnership has worked to establish a regional network of Chambers of Commerce, allowing business leaders and other stakeholder groups to collaborate and share best practices.
It’s that conversation that Billimoria notes is often missing from planning efforts and the general course of local governance. When many groups are engaged and work together, everyone benefits.
“The area I live in has recently received one of the HUD Sustainable Communities grants and it’s allowing for a much greater level of conversation and planning between a four county region,” she says. “And now they’re coming together to talk about what are our shared natural resources and how can we plan … to have some base-level communication about how we’ll preserve those resources and connect up our recreational trailways.”
Those partnerships and conversations are critical to moving forward with long-range economic development plans that will bring jobs and a better quality of life to an already rich and beautiful part of the country.
“More partnerships like that are going to help us get where we want to be in 10-15 years,” Billimoria says.