In the People's Interest

Collaboration, innovation can meet Bozeman’s needs


Guest columnist
I am convinced that Bozeman has the ability to tackle our most vexing community challenges, but the key to doing so is collaboration among our various institutions and citizens’ groups. To co-opt a famous quote: “There’s nothing wrong with Bozeman that cannot be cured by what’s right with Bozeman.”
I see examples all around us of the power of collaboration and cooperation. A developer and two nonprofits are collaborating on a project site behind Lowe’s to produce 96 affordable senior housing units, 136 affordable family housing units, a child care/ family day center for Family Promise and a low-income medical/dental/behavioral health clinic for Community Health Partners. The City of Bozeman has contributed $500,000 to the affordable housing portion of this project through its Community Housing Fund. This integrated project will help address several community
needs simultaneously.
In the early days of the pandemic, Bozeman Health was in desperate need of personal protective equipment for their front-line staff. Simms Fishing Products’ production line was shut down since they were not deemed an essential business. The two organizations collaborated to design a reusable, washable hospital gown and Simms re-tooled its production line to produce the gowns out of
wader-type material. Two philanthropic organizations, AMB West and the Yellowstone Club, contributed over $100,000 to fund production of the gowns, keeping Simms employees on the payroll and producing gowns that are still in use at Bozeman Health.
Bozeman’s local photonics industry is booming, but companies are in need of qualified photonics, laser, and optics technicians to staff their projects. The industry collaborated with Gallatin College to design a curriculum that includes hands-on photonics lab experience, resulting in an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Photonics and Laser Technology degree, which provides a trained, skilled workforce for this fast-growing industry.
The collaboration has provided many high-paying jobs in a “clean” growth industry segment.
The ability to store water is an important component of Bozeman’s Integrated Water Resources Plan. As part of the “Mentored by The Mayor” partnership between the City of Bozeman and Montana State University, a civil engineering masters student suggested using small dams that mimic beaver dams to create deep pools of water along Bozeman Creek for water storage, as opposed to creating a larger reservoir that would have more significant impacts on recreation and wildlife migration. The concept is being studied for feasibility.
These are just a few examples of the benefits of collaboration and partnership already occurring in Bozeman. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to addressing key community needs, so I’ve created Bozeman Together: Progress Though Partnership, an open-source idea bank/virtual think tank. This project is unrelated to my role as a city commissioner — I’m doing this as a private citizen.
In my various roles in the community, I’ve had the benefit of interacting with many of the Bozeman institutions who can collaborate to tackle the most pressing issues we face as a community. It’s
my experience that many of these institutions often have resources and expertise that other institutions are unaware of. Often, multiple organizations are working on the same issues, unaware that
other organizations’ “best and brightest” are working on the same problem. By combining resources to achieve mutual goals, partner organizations can be more efficient and more effective. The goal of Bozeman Together is to break down those silos and foster additional alliances. At you’ll see examples of current collaborations and suggestions for future
partnership opportunities in the areas of housing, water, sustainability, fiscal creativity, growth management, diversity & inclusion, ecosystem and social & mental health issues.
Representatives of Bozeman institutions and interested citizens are encouraged to contribute their ideas for future partnerships to achieve our mutual goals. These ideas will be workshopped on social media and the most actionable ones will be added to the website.
The website and the concept are open-source, meaning the content is dependent upon input from our community’s most innovative minds. Do you have suggestions regarding how multiple organizations, institutions, non-profits and industries can collaborate to address Bozeman’s long-term needs? I encourage you to visit the Bozeman Together website, select the appropriate
category and contribute your specific ideas.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller.
Terry Cunningham is a
small business owner, the
executive director of the nonprofit Run Dog Run and is the
Deputy Mayor of Bozeman. This initiative is unrelated to any of those roles.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Guest Editorial 4/2/21

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