Business Bonanza!

Growth in the Time of Corona

In spite of/because of a global pandemic that has shaken the world, our valley is growing. But what does this mean for our scrappy local business owners?

Derek and Kristen Larson
Clare Menzel, Whitefish Montana, ski, author




Increase in out-of-state job applicants this year



of professional placements are from out-of-state applicants.



“Now is the very best time to find a job in Montana, ever,”
says LC Staffing president Kristen Heck. She would know: 2020 marks LC Staffing’s 35th year of matching job seekers with a host of Montana’s employers

“We need workforce. We do not have enough available workforce.”

The agency is busy welcoming the many folks relocating to Montana, noting that out-of-state job applicant numbers have increased 38% over last year. About 30% of LC Staffing’s average placements and 50% of professional placements are currently from out of state. A shortage of employees here has created wage pressure, making the valley’s jobs more attractive than ever. Affordable and available housing and childcare can be barriers to moving to the area, but “other costs of living are less expensive, and the quality of life here is really great,” Kristen explains.

Kristen notes they’ve seen fewer locals looking for employment opportunities. Many locals are committed to their current employer, or they’ve made the difficult decision not to seek work due to COVID. This, along with the huge influx of visitors and new residents, is leaving local businesses short-staffed. “We have so many employer connections – we can open the right doors for people,” Kristen assures. “We need workforce. We do not have enough available workforce.”


Jordan Van Eimeren


For Kyle Fort and Mary Wolf, their “ultimate favorite part” of owning The Bookshelf in Kalispell is seeing their regulars every week.

“Neither Mary nor I are from here, so we’ve really tried to invest in the community,” Kyle shares. “Having your favorite regular coming in always makes the day brighter.”

“Neither Mary nor I are from here, so we’ve really tried to invest in the community.”

Most of the bookstore’s regular shoppers have been retirees. Kyle notes that they are being more cautious because of COVID, stocking up once a month instead of multiple times a week. Over the summer, the bookstore has also gained new regulars in the form of young families moving from out of state. These relationships are the heart of The Bookshelf.

As Kyle says, “We’re more than just a place to buy books. If people need something, we can help them get it.” Kyle and Mary treat their regulars like family, doing anything from organizing food drives at the store to helping customers who don’t own a computer place online orders.

In addition to buying used books, Kyle and Mary can special order just about any book, including other used books, for delivery within a couple of days. “There’s more good done at the bookstore than just keeping books in people’s hands,” Kyle says. “I think that’s the value of brick and mortar. If you have someone you can talk to, you’re more likely to end up with something you want.”

Jordan Van Eimeren



When Hailey Moore sees new development, she worries about habitat loss, specifically the decline in pollinator and bird populations in the Flathead. But as the nursery manager at the Center for Native Plants, she has some solutions.

“We need to ‘re-wild’ these urban landscapes,” Hailey continues. “People need to move away from the concept that bugs are bad and we need barberries for our landscapes to look nice.”

“If we can change the mindset of the kind of development that’s happening and support people in integrating biodiversity into their backyards, we can mitigate that loss a little bit,” she says. “We can conserve and rebuild some of those habitat fragments and have a positive impact on the ecosystem.”
The Center can help residents pick landscaping plants that invite pollinators and local birds, as well as update existing gardens or plant trees on their property. Hailey highlights “native salvage” as one of the unique ways that local company Forestoration, the parent company of Center for Native Plants, can help mitigate habitat loss.

“Prior to building and excavation, they will come in and remove all of the native sod from the plot,” she explains. “They will transport that material back to our property, keep it alive, and reinstall that native sod in a year after all the development is done.”

“We need to ‘re-wild’ these urban landscapes,” Hailey continues. “People need to move away from the concept that bugs are bad and we need barberries for our landscapes to look nice. It’s not about that. You can have a nice biodiverse yard by integrating native plants. And the more biodiverse your backyard is, the more you are supporting each part of our ecosystem.”


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