Ask someone why they choose to live where they do and you’ll get myriad responses. At the Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, we receive more than 12,000 calls annually. Many of those are from people considering whether to relocate their families to Billings. They are attracted by our low unemployment and surprised at our housing challenges. They are enamored by our history, trails and great outdoors, yet question why we don’t pass mill levies supporting our schools.
As a Chamber of Commerce, one of our jobs is to find solutions to our community challenges. We do so by tackling an aggressive community agenda focused on our schools; energy development opportunities; trail connectivity; supporting pro-business legislation; and tourism growth.
Another title that your Chamber/CVB team readily accepts is that of head community cheerleader. Just like in high school, our job is to rally the team (team Billings) to keep our community excited and proud of where we live. That enthusiasm hopefully spills regionally and nationally: encouraging people to live here, start a business, pursue their education, retire or visit. All of these actions improve our community, help our schools, spread our tax base and enrich our culture.
So, are you ready to join the pep squad? Let me give you a few nuggets of inspiration to use as you help us promote our community to the world. Check out what is being said about Billings across the country:
1. Forbes magazine recently listed Billings as having the 15th lowest unemployment rate in U.S.
2. CNN Money ranked Billings No. 8 in an article titled “Where housing prices are rebounding the fastest."
3. American Cowboy Magazine listed Billings as one of the “20 best places to live the American dream.”
4. Best Life Magazine ranked Billings as the third best place to raise a family (behind Honolulu and Virginia Beach).
5. Organic Gardening placed Billings as the fourth greenest small city in the U.S.
6. Fortune Small Business magazine ranked Billings as the best place to live and launch a business.
7. The city of Williston recognized Billings as its “Community Partner of the Year” because of our community’s support of the Bakken oil play.
Want more reasons to celebrate Billings? Be watching for Billings on the small screen in January. The Chamber/CVB worked very closely with "American Idol" for its nationwide auditions in August, assisting with locations, B-roll footage and more. Cheer on the 22 contestants who made it through to the next round from the Billings auditions. And, Billings moves to the big screen as Paramount Pictures begins shooting a major motion picture here in November.
As if that weren’t enough, last week we welcomed 14 African guests from Namibia thanks to Austin-Lehman Adventures. The group toured the region with a kickoff event sponsored by the Chamber/CVB and the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District at ZooMontana. Just a few days later, we welcomed 44 international tour operators from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom with a reception and tour of Pictograph Caves State Park, among other locations. Both of these huge events will result in more tourism to our region, resulting in enormous and positive impacts to the local economy.
Our community of just more than 100,000 people is a regional, national and international destination. Give me a “B”…
John Brewer, CAE, is president of the Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau.