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Billings Clinic

Plans for the Billings Clinic campus in Bozeman and expansion for the current Billings Clinic in the Mary Alice Fortin Health Conference Center on Tuesday.

Last week, Billings Clinic announced it was making huge investments in Billings and Bozeman.

Two three-year projects will see nearly $100 million spent in the two communities. Here in Billings, the Clinic will spend more than $50 million upgrading facilities and expanding for future growth.

This is great news for the community, the economy and for area residents who have access to great health care without having to leave their town. It's also necessary as Billings and Bozeman continue to grow. We need to keep pace with the growth. It's also wonderful to see growth in our largest local industry, health care.

Thanks to Billings Clinic for the increased investment in the community. We're blessed to have the clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare locally that give residents such great care. Few communities our size have such excellent options.

It's great that Billings Clinic has looked at making the patient experience easier and more focused on what the individuals need rather than what seems to suit the organization best.

Here's what we mean: It would have been easy to spend money on something other than a parking garage which is very costly and hardly grabs attention. However, the reality is that parking has been problematic on the downtown Billings campus for a long time. And when you're sick or struggling with mobility, parking is a serious concern. (Both Billings Clinic and St. Vincent offer valet parking for patients.) Kudos to the clinic for recognizing the problem and spending significant money to solve it. It's amazing how many social media posts seemed to cheer this news as the most important aspect of the capital projects.

Lost in the shuffle of the good news was that the Clinic will be building and expanding beyond its current needs. In other words, it's not just going to expand to meet today's population, rather it will grow so that the Clinic can naturally — and probably more cost effectively — grow in the future. These are all good signs for Billings and Bozeman, which will see as many as 150 new jobs because of the expansion.

We can applaud the clinic and the community which owns it for its continued investment in excellent health care, but the truth is that we also play a part. The clinic, the largest private employer in Billings, has chosen to invest in the Magic City. We have to do our part.

As we consider projects like the One Big Sky District, we must support efforts that will tie the clinic's expanding campus with the rest of downtown. Unlike other cities, we're lucky to have our medical corridor touch the boundaries of downtown. Yet as One Big Sky planners have noted, nothing really connects these two areas together. That's where One Big Sky comes in.

Secondly, we must also realize that if we want to continue to attract top-notch talent that our city must compete with others which have invested in their downtown and in their communities. We must be willing to make Billings and the downtown more attractive, modern and urban so that we can continue to recruit talent who sees the area as vibrant and growing. For example, we must have a downtown convention center. We must have more retail options, and we must make living spaces a reality so that people don't have to leave the downtown core for shopping or entertainment.

An investment like this will help take the clinic to the next level of care, service and performance. We hope that the Billings will continue to keep pace so that this is just another in a long series of improvements, upgrades and expansions for the clinic.

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