Missoula makes list of cities vying to house two federal agencies; MEP the applicant

“We applied for that because these would obviously be high-paying jobs targeted to our community,” said Grant Kier, executive director of the Missoula Economic Partnership. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file)

The city of Missoula made the list of 136 locals interested in becoming the new home for two federal agencies, including the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The U.S Department of Agriculture last week released its list of final candidates, naming the Missoula Economic Partnership as one. The Innovations Campus at Montana State University in Bozeman also applied for the program, as did Big Sky Economic Development in Billings.

“We applied for that because these would obviously be high-paying jobs targeted to our community,” Grant Kier, executive director of the Missoula Economic Partnership, said Monday.

“We see it as being a bit of long shot, but we feel the utilities we have in downtown Missoula are underutilized right now, and we’d love to see those put to work for the greater public and to drive our growth and industry downtown.”

One of those facilities is the federal building. Missoula County and the city of Missoula are also looking at the vacant building as the potential future home of local government.

In its request for proposals, the USDA received 136 submissions from parties in 35 states interested in housing the two agencies. Last August, the USDA said it would move the ERS and NIFA outside the Washington, D.C., region by the end of this year.

“I think we made the case that we have an outstanding research and complimentary work happening in our community already,” Kier said. “We’re seeing cutting edge research come out of the university here and we’re seeing a lot of great Forest Service and like-minded employment here. It was an easy case that this would be a good fit for USDA to redeploy some of its resources from Washington, D.C. to here.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said it hasn’t been determined how many staff from the two agencies will remain in the capital region.The move will place USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work outside the D.C. area.

Perdue added that taxpayers would realize significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even if the Trump administration looks to cut the budget.

“The interest from across the country has been overwhelming as localities, universities, private entities, and elected officials realize the potential for their communities in become the new home for these two agencies,” Perdue said