A Letter From Our Executive Director

Every once and a while I try and pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on the challenges and blessings that I am experiencing at that moment. 2020 has been a year when I needed a lot of “deep-breath moments,” but to be honest with you, it has been non-stop from mid-March to the holiday season/end of the year. I feel more like, what in the heck just happened- then I feel reflective and encouraged, and I bet I am not the only one. That said, I can say that this year (2020) has also included a series of proud moments that I will hold on to for many years.


First, our status as regional healthcare hub showed up when we needed it the most, which is a proud moment for us all. Our hospitals and care centers provided outstanding service to their patients (our loved ones), managed surges of the COVID-19 virus with great expertise and a “whatever it takes” spirit, all the while keeping their teams working and encouraged. Outstanding job! Healthcare represents over 20% of our total economic output, has been the fastest growing job creator in our market for the last 5 years, and is delivering world-class healthcare to a service-area population of 650,000. Our regional hub status for world-class healthcare will be a very important part of our economic recovery and growth. To support that effort, we need to build up our medical corridor/downtown connection, support healthcare workforce development efforts (from doctors, to nurses, technicians, and support teams), and continue to show our appreciation.


The second proud moment has been the efforts of our small business community to stay “open and safe.” I have had the honor of working with some of the best and most determined small businesses owners in our community. While they managed the impacts of COVID on their own business, they have been active in the community’s efforts to support the needs of other small businesses. For some, the impacts of COVID have been difficult, with challenges likely to continue in to the first and second quarter of 2021. Yet, they have not given up, and have given back to others while in the middle of this significant economic upheaval. It reminds me that our small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy. Many of our successful employers started as small businesses, with passionate and determined leaders, whose dedication has supported this community through good and tough times alike. Our job now is to support them (look for after-Christmas sales and spend the stimulus cash locally), both current and future entrepreneurs. As they build their dreams, they are building our community, and they deserve our commitment in return.


Lastly, let me say, I am so [darn] proud of the Yellowstone County Economic Response and Recovery Team (ERRT)—all the private sector, economic development and civic partners that have been meeting, communicating, and executing on our mission to support the community’s public health and businesses needs through this pandemic. What dedication (having to join me for a weekly call for the last 9 months)! We share a common goal, a willingness to partner and take action together. This work has included the efforts of the BSED team, the Chamber team, Downtown Billings, 15 private sector members, our public health leadership and key members of City Council and County Commissioners. The effort and partnership has been outstanding, with more work ahead. I am indeed proud of this teamwork.


While this year (2020) has not given me time to pause and catch my breath (you too I know), it has encouraged my heart and made me proud, knowing that we have a community (a lot of dedicated hardworking members) that pulls together when we need resolve to get the job done. This collective effort will set the stage for our economic future, and we will be in a position to Build Beyond this time with greater opportunities for economic and community success.


Take care all, enjoy the holidays, be proud, and take a deep breath and get ready for 2021.

-Steve Arveschoug