Flathead Valley welcomes 2019 with a thriving economy

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Here we are at the threshold of a brand new year.

Some of us are ready to say good riddance to 2018; others will remember it as their best year ever. For the Flathead Valley economy, it’s been a very good year. In fact, the past several years have seen robust local growth, as detailed in the Daily Inter Lake’s “Changing Times” series that wraps up today.

Our news staff went the distance to pull together all sorts of statistics and observations about the area’s industries, institutions, local governments and neighborhoods as the Flathead Valley continues in a brisk cycle of economic growth.

The numbers alone tell the story in many cases.

Consider that Flathead County voters have approved $134.6 million in bonds for school construction and renovation over the past decade. That kind of financial support shows a continued commitment to education, even during the years the valley was climbing out of the recession.

The U.S. 93 bypass has been a major economic driver. From 2001 through 2016, the total economic impact of the bypass was $1.21 billion. The past two years have added another $87.5 million in economic output. Also noteworthy is the state’s commitment to invest $110 million in transportation improvements in Flathead County over the next five years, through 2022.

Even the timber industry had some good news to report. Family-owned F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber has seen a healthy increase in production in the last few years, from 58.9 million board feet of lumber in 2016 to 75 million board feet projected for 2018. SmartLam likewise is looking forward to continued growth in the cross-laminated timber industry.

The Flathead’s three incorporated cities all have made great strides in improving and strengthening their downtown corridors with a variety of mixed-use projects. In Kalispell, the core area is on the cusp of major redevelopment when the railroad tracks are pulled out and a trail system put in its place.

Combine the numbers and notable accomplishments with record low unemployment, record numbers of visitors, continued commercial development and residential housing growth and major additions to local health-care facilities, and it’s clear there’s a lot to be excited about as the clock ticks toward 2019.

Here’s hoping the new year will be a great one for everyone who calls the Flathead home.

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