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Flathead economy expected to bounce back

By Paige Sedgewick, Reporter, psedgewick@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 16 2014 10:02:05 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 10:10:07 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

When the recession hit, it hit hard. The Flathead area took a pretty bad dive along with it.

"Things got pretty quiet here in 2008-2009 with the great recession. But the last couple of years, things have started to pick up," said Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz. 

Jentz is right. Economic experts say that 2013 was a year of growth, and they expect the trend to continue. One construction company has been busier than ever.

"We're having so many calls. We had to hire someone new just to help out with sales and marketing just yesterday," said Merna Terry, the vice president of Ron Terry Construction. 

Terry says it's a welcome change. This month alone they are already increasing their numbers.

"This year in January, I think we have five sales so far just for this month. Which is, boy, that's one-seventh of what we did all last year," said Terry.

Economic experts say that construction has been happening more recently in the Flathead, but there's still a ways to go until the numbers are back up to pre-recession times.

"I'm not saying we're coming out of this recession, what I'm saying is as a city we are moving forward, and that's a really good sign," said Jentz. 

Jentz explains that the growth in the area is balanced. North of Kalispell is expanding with seven more stores in the Hutton Ranch area. The hospital is adding an addition and Sportsman & Ski Haus is adding an addition to their store. 

While Kalispell expands, some are still trying to recover from their setbacks.

"Only the last year or so has been really well for me. Everything else has been just trying to get back to that living wage again," said Nathaniel Rogers.

Rogers was one of the workers laid off at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company. Since then he has worked a series of low paying jobs. Even now, he struggles. 

"What I'll never get here is the health insurance. I don't get that here, so that's all out-of-pocket expense which is huge. It almost makes my wage here go down to just a basic job," said Rogers. 

Though the Flathead is on its way to recovery, many people are struggling, but the outlook is hopeful.