Quality of Place for Quality of Force – 2023 Better Off in Billings Event Recap

Increased opportunities, mobility, and technology have changed the rules of talent attraction and retention. In a game where many can choose place first, it is more important than ever for communities, especially those with a wealth of job opportunities, to provide a strong quality of place.

The 2023 Better Off in Billings Event: Quality of Place for Quality of Force brought the community together to examine ideas to Engage with, Advocate for, and Invest in our community to strengthen our quality of place.

The morning kicked off with a welcome from members of the Big Sky Economic Development team to set the tone for what quality of place means to our community and its workforce. Our community then gave a warm welcome to Patience Fairbrother, Vice President of Talent Attraction for Development Counsellors who shared on a broader scale what characteristics, amenities, and attractions today’s workforce is looking for in their community. Top location factors she shared consisted of cost of living, housing and availability, housing cost, and safety/crime rates, and relocation factors for “digital nomads” consisted of high-speed internet, cost of living, affordable housing, weather/climate, and a network of like-minded individuals.

Patience’s presentation concluded with 5 action steps for members of the Billings community to take to further enhance our quality of place:

  1. Define what makes Billings unique and lean into it
  2. Don’t think you can’t compete
  3. Support community development
  4. Intersect with talent at the right points
  5. Be ambassadors for Billings

For a deeper dive into these top location and relocation factors for today’s talent, check out DCI’s Insights Report: Talent Wars 2022

Immediately following the presentation of information on these key talent location/relocation factors, attendees were asked a series of questions that applied these concepts and action steps to our community. They discussed each question as a small group and were then asked to share with the larger audience the ideas, solutions, comments, or concerns that were brought up.

The afternoon featured a panel of local leaders representing these different areas of talent location/relocation:

  • Attractions and Amenities: Evan Decker, Visit Billings
  • Entrepreneurship: Owen Haacke, Empress Brokers International LLC
  • Arts and Culture: Jan Dietrich, Alberta Bair Theater
  • Parks and Trails: Kendra Shaw, City Council – Ward 1
  • Housing: Greg McCall, McCall Homes

Dan Carter (ExxonMobil) facilitated a captivating conversation among these panelists that allowed them to provide attendees more information on the work they do and the impact it has on the community, as well as how the community has impacted their work. Each panelist gave a final comment that advised and inspired members of the community to Engage with, Advocate for, and Invest in the community.

Following the panel, BillingsWorks in collaboration with Graphic Finesse made the announcement of the brand new Better Off in Billings website. This website was created as a one-stop resource for all things Billings. It houses a wide variety of resources, such as:

  • Resources and information in the areas of BEing, GROWing, and PLAYing here.
  • Infographics, photos, videos, and logos to showcase the best of Billings to prospective employees and their family.
  • The option to “Ask a Local” – Better Off in Billings Ambassadors – that share their areas of knowledge about Billings and are available to connect to newcomers or other locals.
  • Two new downloads: A Mover’s Guide to connect newcomers with resources and people to help them feel at home, and a First Night in Billings guide to shopping, eating, sleeping, and recreating like a local.

The event came to a close with the announcement of the 2023 Space2Place Placemaking Grant winners. There were seven projects awarded this year that will come to life throughout Yellowstone County in the coming months. To learn more about these projects click here!

All attendees then “cheers!”-ed to our incredible community and the people within it with a happy hour and a complimentary Better Off in Billings pint glass, and participated in a collaborative art experience facilitated by artist Karyn Mehus!

This event would not have been made possible without the support of our sponsors: KLJ Engineering, NorthWestern Energy, and SLC Health (now Intermountain Healthcare), nor without the work of our event partners: DiA Events, The Billings Depot, Visit Billings, Downtown Billings, Billings Chamber of Commerce, Skoog Photography, Erro Coffee, Karyn Mehus, Magic City Casino, Let’s Get Fresh, and Happy Tummy Kusina.