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Growth Policy Chapter 4 – Community Profile

Submitted by Mary Grube

Chapter 4 of the Growth Policy includes a community profile which deals with current trends, economic growth, housing, cultural opportunities and several other planning related topics. As noted before State Statute requires the government bodies to update the Growth Policy every five (5) years in 76-1-601(e)(iii) a timetable for implementing the growth policy at least once every 5 years and revising the policy if necessary. The necessity of updates is for the changing trends, needs, population, etc. During the 2017 update one of the significant changes was the decline in jobs, economic development, and oil and gas revenues. During the 2013 update, the 2010 census was included in Chapter 4; this will be updated during the 2021-2022 Growth Policy update as the new 10-year census will take place in 2020. The population trend has consistently changed since 1920 fluctuating with growth and decline related to oil and gas decline itself.

The economic downturn in Fallon County was significant from February 2015 to February 2016. The County as a whole, lost a significant number of full-time jobs, and the unemployment rate increased from 2.3 percent to 4.8 percent from 2012 to 2016.

While the Planning Board held their public hearing and took public comment for the 2017 update, the large industry sectors including agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining, educational services, health care, and social services require higher education and could provide jobs for people with post-secondary education. Due to the Montana Health Boards lowering their standards in Fallon County, the social assistance, human services and elder care has decreased significantly, due to a lack of these services.

The Planning Board received comment on the Fallon County Medical Complex and the issues that have come up regarding funding and staffing since the 2012 growth policy.  A stigma has occurred that the Complex is funded by Fallon County while the mill levies may help, FMC is still a private, non-profit charitable corporation and the County subsidies typically only account for 10 percent of the facility’s gross revenue.

It becomes clear as we go through the Growth Policy that the five-year update is a necessity as growth patterns and trends continue to change in Fallon County with the unique experience of our up and down trends surrounding growth and decline. As I am writing this article, it becomes clear the economy has been stimulated due to the pipelines that are being built at this time. It also becomes clear that another “human” need that has come up in the community is child care, which was not mentioned during the 2012 growth policy or the 2017 update; which shows that the Growth Policy is an everchanging document. If you have any questions surrounding the Growth Policy or Planning, please call me at 406-778-7111. The Growth Policy can be viewed on the Planners Website at falloncounty.net.