PHILIPSBURG — Visitors to Philipsburg already know about the sapphires, candy shop and world-class fly fishing that have ingrained “P-burging” in the Montana tourism scene.
But few outside of town know about the hospital, remodeled schools and inviting community that make for an unbeatable place to live, according to locals.
The Philipsburg Rotary Club is spreading the word with a yearlong campaign geared toward young families looking to raise their children in a small, friendly environment.
With a population of 820 — down from 940 in 2000 — the historic 19th century mining camp hopes to attract a new wave of pioneers for the 21st century economy, including dot-com and remote workers.
These families can choose to go any place they like, said Rotary member Jim Jenner. Their goal, then, is to sell them on all the benefits and advantages Philipsburg has to offer.
“This is not about tourism,” Jenner said. “This is about young families that could be convinced this is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”
Jenner, who owns his own PACCOM Films Inc., said he communicates with his sources globally thanks to reliable broadband serving the Flint Creek Valley. His projects ship out to nearly every continent, yet he still has time in the afternoons for a trip to nearby Rock Creek.
“We’re remote in the best ways, yet we’re still connected to the outside world,” Jenner said. “I think I’m going to live longer for lack of stress.”
Prior to launching their campaign, Rotary conducted a community inventory of Philipsburg and areas it can improve. Members talked with the town council, Granite County Medical Center and Philipsburg Public Schools for input.
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While school enrollment is declining, Jenner said children benefit from a 9-1 student-to-teacher ratio. The hospital, meanwhile, provides immediate life-saving services with critical access to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
The one barrier, Jenner said, is jobs and the economy. But if “teleworkers” can bring their work with them — and appreciate the great outdoors – then Philipsburg could be a perfect fit.
“It takes a special kind of person to want to be here,” Jenner said. “We will be most successful if we are just telling the truth, and telling it well.”
As part of the campaign, Rotary will assemble a group of Philipsburg ambassadors to welcome and tour any families interested in learning more about the town.
The group also hired freelance publicist Matt Kalinowski, of Portland, to help with the effort. Kalinowski visited Philipsburg in November, where he immediately noticed a strong sense of community.
“Everyone here has a real pride in Philipsburg, recognizing they are a small town and recognizing they are all in it together,” Kalinowski told the Standard. “There’s a sense of belonging that you get more than in other cities.”
From education to lifestyle and the outdoors, Kalinowski said he has a number of angles to work with in promoting Philipsburg. It’s just a matter of outlining the story.
“I think it’s going to be very positive,” he said. “I’ve never seen a town take a proactive approach like this.”