Make Montana Home

By LIZ MARCHI

Almost 20 years ago, I made a significant life pivot and relocated my family from the comfortable suburbs of sunny Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Whitefish, Montana.   I left a job I loved running Public Policy and Communication for a 2000-member Chamber of Commerce and Fortune 100 companies. I was a regular columnist for the Triad Business Journal, very involved in the community, my 5,000-member church, my three girls were in good private schools and I had a lot of great friends.  Something was missing.  I didn’t know what but through serendipity, I got a call from a head hunter in Raleigh, NC asking me to interview for a job with a tiny economic development organization in Flathead County, Montana.  I had been to many places in the west, but never Montana.  Turner Askew, a southerner and Montanan, had connected with the Raleigh firm.

2000 was an epic fire season.  As we flew from SLC to KSP, it was rough, hot and smoky.  Kalispell was a sleepy little town, a little shabby, and Whitefish was nothing like it is now, but you could see what might be.  After a very unique interview experience, all three job candidates were in town at the same time, which included a public appearance, on the fly, to community members, I got offered the job.  From then on, began a learning curve for me that continues every day about life, work, living and loving.  I had never had a job where healthcare, moving expenses and a signing bonus weren’t standard.  NONE of this was on the table for this job although I did get the healthcare and moving expenses negotiated.  Twenty years later, Don Bennett, the Founder of Freedom Bank and a dear friend, complains about the cost moving my baby grand piano to Montana.

I have spent the last 20 years doing work that, for me, has purpose.  I have learned about “minimum viable living.”  More stuff, more accolades, more clubs, doesn’t in any way bring happiness of feel a sense of purpose.  I have spent the most terrifying moments of my life in Montana: flying in terrible weather on Big Sky Airlines, driving at night in blinding snow storms (you don’t learn snow driving in the south), having cancer or being caught on a river in a sudden hail and wind storm or on the ski hill in a whiteout when you don’t know which way is down and watching your 401K evaporate in 2008.   I am stronger, happier and more confidently at peace because of these moments.

Montana gives us a beautiful and extreme natural environment in which to test ourselves physically and mentally but also to relish in the sheer majesty of one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.  Who could ever imagine something so magnificence as Glacier Park, the great plains of the east or the incredible waters of our trout rivers?

Working with the Montana Chamber Foundation, English Creek Studio and others, we have launched www.makemontanahome.org. Please tell us what you think?  It’s meant to be part of a global community of exceptional individuals who have or want to make Montana home.  It’s about thinkers, doers, entrepreneurs, outdoorsman and families who want to be part of a renaissance for our small towns through the enabling power of technology and telecommuting.  Make Montana home is a place to connect to the people., places and networks that bring the best and the brightest home or to our state for the first time.  There is a Facebook Page for Make Montana Home and for Montana Telecommuters.  We need engagement on many levels.  Our primary grows a highly educated workforce and bring economic vitality to our small towns andcommunities.

I Made Montana Home and it’s made my life enormously rich in the things that are meaningful.  Find your meaning in Montana.

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Liz-MarchiLiz Marchi lives on a ranch in Polson, Montana  with her husband Jon. She is the Fund Coordinator for the Frontier Angel Fund and spends a lot of time thinking and learning about entrepreneurs, the economy and Montana’s unique place in the world. She has three daughters and a stepson and daughter and a grandchild.  She graduated from Hollins College and is entering the final quarter of life…unless we go intoovertime.