Of course I would think Billings is neat.
It's my hometown. And, I am the editor of the newspaper. Even if I thought differently, it probably wouldn't be wise of me to say so.
But, I love this place, not just Rims or the convenience or the way people are just really positive here. When Allen Powers asked me why I love this place, I ticked off a litany of things and concluded, "I guess that's more than just one thing," realizing that I had more than answered his question.
However, Billings folks would do well to listen to Powers.
He doesn't have to live here. He could live anywhere he wanted.
Powers is a freelance videographer whose resume is more like a sports fan's fantasy. And, since 1989, Powers has chosen to live in Billings, when he's not on the road with Monday Night Football. Or filming the Super Bowl. Or Kentucky Derby.
He has great sports stories (more on that in a moment), but maybe his most compelling he shared this week at the two Billings Rotary clubs' yearly gathering together.
As a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, he became one of my new heroes when he told about being booted from a locker room by former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. He was ringside when Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield's ear. And he also saw Brett Favre's last game, when in the team huddle, he heard Favre tell his teammates, "Help an old man go out with grace."
He's shot other things besides sports events. Once he arrived at the White House to film a special about the White House Christmas tree. When unable to get the perfect image framed in his videocamera, he approached the security and told them, "This is not going to work. I need a clear shot at the White House."
Still, his most compelling story was not where he goes, but why he returns to Billings instead of Portland, Los Angeles or Denver.
He continues to come back because Billings is the kind of place where people let you live comfortably. That may sound a bit cliche or idealistic. But Powers gave several everyday examples of how Billings is different than other places. In one example, he said we don't lay on the horn when someone doesn't make a jackrabbit start at a turn signal. We seem genuinely welcoming to folks.
He should know. Since the beginning of this year, he's traveled enough miles to circle the globe.
So, while those of us who report about the benefits of Billings and Montana talk about infrastructure, business climate and regulation, Powers has recognized something pretty simple, but hard to put on a brochure: Billings is a genuine place; quality of life isn't just something on a survey.
His dream — "if I had as much money as Warren Buffett" — would be to buy every billboard in Billings and remind visitors as well as residents of what makes the city so special.
Some of his slogans include, "Billings, where freedom is a renewable resource." Or, "Wildlife common, road rage is not."
"For me," Powers said, "it's the tolerance and temperament; it's so genuine and gentle."