Buckle up for this one.  I recently asked how we could make Great Falls a "destination city" instead of a "departure city."  I wasn't asking how we get more people to move here, but how to do we get people already living in Montana to COME here.  How do we attract people halfway between Billings and Great Falls, or Missoula and Great Falls to come to our city instead of the other way around.

There is no easy answer to that question.  If there was we wouldn't have to ask it.  Below you'll find what I thought were some of the best responses and ideas on how we can improve Great Falls.

DOWNTOWN

There is a group working to revitalize downtown Great Falls supporting them and the businesses they are moving into the downtown is a good start, cleaning up the downtown is another good start not just the homelessness but garbage businesses (Jack's pet store) come to mind. Basically, supporting local businesses locally owned locally spent. – Mark Duryee

 

Stop downtown parking meters, get rid of the 15% business tax, have our local law enforcement concentrate more on the drug problems that plague our town and less on traffic violations, utilize the Missouri River more by having more beachy spots and boat docks, advertising more about the history of this area, demolish some of these vacant buildings or at least use them for more proactive things for our community, and most of all..... STOP PRICE GOUGING THE WORKING FAMILY'S COST OF HOUSING AND USING THE EXCUSE OF MORE PEOPLE MOVING INTO MONTANA...THAT IS B.S. PURE PLAIN AND SIMPLE. I honestly don't have a problem with more people moving here, what I have the problem with is the people that are in control of our public politics using it as an excuse to link their pockets with our hard-earned money. Oh, and one last thing, the fairgrounds needs to stop charging people money at the gate to get in. They are charging people a crap load of money to spend money . Think I just stirred the pot, but that is my honest opinions. – Richard Mercer

YOUTH

One of the biggest problems here is that there is very little to nothing for teenagers to do. When I was young, we had places where we could go dance and hang out. There's nothing like that here. The whole "exodus" mindset starts young. That's where we need to start changing it. – Elizabeth Moore

 

More things for kids to do inside when the weather is either below zero or above 90°. We have a lot of bars, casinos, restaurants, gyms, & car washers for adults. How about catering to the younger generations . When it was -50° during Christmas vacation, nothing for kids to do to get out of the house. Just a thought. – Wendy Ruff

TOURISM

Rivers edge trail is a unique feature but not a lot of people know about it. It’s actually a really pretty city at night with the Missouri River being the focus. Build a smaller western town replicating the old west along the river, old eateries, shops etc. lease them out to recover the cost. “Old west” always attracts people, we need it back. – Mike Henry

 

We have a wonderful natural attraction, the Missouri River, that could attract many recreational people. A nice RV park on the river would help. River activities, such as a flotation rental shop that also rents fishing poles, & whatever else people desire during the summer. Then tap in on ice skating in Gibson Park with skate rentals, helmets, skateboard rentals for the skate park, etc. I remember years ago there was a water ski ramp in the river at Broadwater Bay. There was competitions held. It drew a great, fun crowd. Most cities offer FREE weekly music to the public outdoors. Great Falls needs to get off the idea of charging big $$$ for every activity there is and make it affordable to all. The profit will come in other ways also, in ways $$ can't buy. A YMCA would be another great investment in this city. Support the Great Falls clinic so they can continue to grow and offer competitive services. Benefis owns too many people and property in this town. Allow the truth to be told about businesses and the dirty politics involved, (ie: Benefis not being JCAHO certified-why? Most hospitals in US are, what really happened to the restaurant in the old Woolwoths building-stop the corruption for selfish needs, etc.) Consider decisions based on community needs and desires and positivity it will bring instead of powerful people, businesses or other entities. – Monica Wittke

SHOPPING/DINING

A thriving mall like Missoula. More clothing stores and kid friendly places. Canadians used to come here all the time to spend money and stay for several days before the mall became a desert. We need different people in our city committees/government that will allow growth of other entrepreneurs other than pursuing there our financial gain. A little competition won't hurt your businesses. – Keith Voyles

 

Bring in a popular shopping chain not in any other place in Montana (i.e Trader Joe's, IKEA, etc). If you build it, they will come!

The Newberry can keep doing what they're doing too. They have made GF rival Missoula for concert destinations. Huge kudos there. – Joshua Green

 

Bring shopping back to the mall and add more exciting restaurants. I love our mom and pop places, but that's not what gets people to come to different towns. People don't like to even back to school shop here anymore because we have next to nothing compared to Bozeman, Billings, Missoula, heck even Helena is getting up there – Hillary Becker

LIVABLE WAGES

Shopping malls, specialty food stores, furniture stores, restaurants, casinos, bars, hotels and just about every other business in Great Falls is going to suffer until companies producing high dollar goods decide Great Falls will be a place to build and operate. If we can't find companies that produce things in technology, whether electronics, engineering, or science, or perhaps other areas of popular industry such as textiles, etc., Great Falls will continue to be a place people depart from. Our kids leave because there's nothing to keep them here.

We can build on tourism, and that's fine, but a town built on tourism is usually a seasonal type destination and as we all know, that's not going to bring career oriented businesses to our children. People have to be able to earn a solid living before they can frequent shopping malls, restaurants, casinos, etc.

On the other hand, Great Falls suits me fine the way it is—but I'm retired. I don't have to worry about finding a career. – Brett Mills

 

Maybe don't worry about making it a destination city so much as making it a better place for those of us that live here. The shopping sucks. Specifically clothes shopping and slim choices of health food type stores/products for those of us that have to be on a restricted diet for health issues such as food sensitivities.

Last fall my daughter needed a pair of black dress shoes. We went to NINE stores before we finally found a pair of questionable quality at Walmart.

Please, no more coffee shops, bars, casinos and tire shops. Colleen Zimmerman

 

YOU REALLY WANNA KNOW? Get industries and jobs people can make a living off of. And most importantly: things young people actually care about. GF is just a giant retirement community. Everyone there my age is a drug addict or ******* weird and gross. I wish I'd moved away a lot sooner. Lastly. Do something about the lack of housing and for the love of god do NOT think I mean "affordable housing", we don't need 3 more Parkdales or subsidized housing for the poor and frankly the lazy (I am referring to two separate groups here) to drive costs up for EVERYONE. – Jacob Ziehli

 BUSINESS FRIENDLY/HOUSING ISSUES

Make it more friendly to outside investors like IHOP and stop holding onto the 1950s. If Great Falls stays 20 years behind, modernization will remain challenging. We also need to build more housing, so people have places to live if they move in. Stop the No vacancy campaign if you weren't born in Montana and welcome outsiders if they contribute. That's my 10 cents. – Luke Fecteau

 

Get local banks to offer foreclosed properties at ridiculously low prices for use in experimental green/ sustainable architecture and specifically housing projects. Offer great rates and tax breaks to those wanting to demonstrate urban and vertical farming designs. – Becky Brown

WHAT WE DON'T WANT

Less casinos, banks, coffee shops, car washes. This town needs better places to eat! It would be nice to get some better shopping as Lowe's, Costco, bass pro shop, Cabela's. – Justin Clark

The biggest thing we noticed in the responses was we don't need more casinos, tire shows, coffee shops or mattress shops.  Plenty also had lots to say our of city leadership on the city council, and getting rid of the "good ol' boys network."

As I said at the beginning, there is no easy answer to the question I asked, yet we can't start to improve without asking it.  There will be no magic solution on what do to but to do nothing and hope for the best won't work out for us.

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