Libby Montana News Archive

LibbyMt.com > News > January 2008 > Libby: Positive Trend

Libby City of Eagles. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Libby City of Eagles

Kootenai Valley Record. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Kootenai Valley Record
See the December 31, 2007 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story.
Libby: Positive Trend
by Brent Shrum, Kootenai Valley Record
January 2, 2008

Looking back at 2007, Mayor Tony Berget thinks Libby may finally have reached “the tipping point.”

“The downtown revitalization, I think, has really given people a positive attitude about downtown, and you can see it in the attitude,” he said.

People seem more upbeat about the future and are starting to make an investment in their town, Berget said. That attitude can be seen in the number of new homes being built in the city, he said.

“There were a lot of building permits last year, but most of the construction has been this year,” he said.

The city’s program to provide matching funds to property owners for sidewalk replacement has also taken off after years of languishing with few takers.

“Now it’s like a waiting list,” Berget said. “It’s really snowballing.”

Along with residential construction and business improvements, Berget noted the construction this year of a new barn by the Libby Volunteer Ambulance service as a significant investment in the community.

“That is so impressive,” he said of the nearly finished new building at the corner of Third Street and Montana Avenue.

Trent Oelberg, director of Libby Main Street Association, has also noticed a change.

“I can’t put my finger on it, yet the sense or the feeling of it is there’s a new spirit,” he said. “There’s a new spirit downtown.”

Oelberg pointed to several businesses that have moved into previously vacant storefronts Mineral Avenue this year, including Perfect Vision Satellite Services, Libby Video Productions, For His Glory Photography/Good News Christian Books & Music, Big Dollar, and Libby Furniture, which recently opened a third location along Mineral.

Between Lincoln Boulevard and Third Street, there’s only one storefront that’s not currently occupied, Oelberg said. There are some vacancies below Third Street, though, “so that’s an area that we need to work on over the next year or so,” Oelberg added.

Another project for the coming year may be the first phase of a streetscape plan on Mineral Avenue. Oelberg is optimistic that with support from the city, businesses and grant funds, the two blocks between Highway 2 and Lincoln Boulevard can be refreshed with new streetlights, trees and walkways.

“That looks like it’s going to happen this year,” he said. “It looks very feasible.”

A developer is in the process of buying the old school building at the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Mineral Avenue with plans to renovate the historic structure into a mix of high-end condominiums, commercial offices and artists’ studios; the deal is scheduled to close Jan. 2, Oelberg noted.

“That’s going to be a major development for Mineral,” he said. “We see that as very significant.”

There have also been a number of recent improvements to businesses along California Avenue, contributing to a healthy downtown district, Oelberg said.

The designation of Libby as “City of Eagles” and the construction of a gateway to Mineral Avenue, topped by a giant steel eagle sculpture by artist Todd Berget, is another sign of the new spirit downtown, Oelberg said.

“When everybody works together with the same goal in mind, things can be accomplished,” he said.

Libby Area Chamber of Commerce director Louise Rice agrees.

“I think unity is the thing that is going to make this community thrive,” she said, noting how quickly the eagle project was completed with support from local government and the business community.

Rice’s organization signed up 32 new members this year, bringing total membership to 277.

“That’s quite a few for one year,” she said.

The Chamber had 7,439 registered guests at the office this year, distributed 7,825 visitor guides, took 6,840 phone calls, sent out 116 vacations packets and 106 relocation packets, and received 650 web requests for information on vacation and relocation, Rice said.

Considering high fuel prices this year, the number of visitors was encouraging, Rice said. She said this year’s forest fires to the east prompted some people to spend more time in the Libby area. Chamber staff told a lot of travelers “that we have the same things Glacier Park has and less people,” Rice said.

Rice sees a positive trend developing.

“It’s a good thing that’s happening, and I think we’ll see it continue,” she said.

Editor’s Note: See the December 31, 2007 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story. The Kootenai Valley Record publishes once a week, on Monday, in Libby, Montana. They are a locally owned community newspaper, located at 403 Mineral Avenue in Libby. For in-county and out-of-county subscription information, call 406-293-2424, or e-mail kvrecord@gmail.com.

LibbyMt.com > News > January 2008 > Libby: Positive Trend
All page content copyright 2008. All rights reserved. May not be used without permission.

home page
PO Box 940, Libby, MT 59923
e-mail: info@libbymt.com