On Monday, Hill County concludes its celebration of its 100th anniversary year.
The year was set aside to look at the county’s interesting past and to contemplate what will happen in its next 100 years.
The first part was interesting and fun.
The second part was more difficult. It’s highly doubtful that Havre residents of 100 years ago could have predicted what would happen in the county’s first century. Given the pace of change in technology, it is hard to figure out what Hill County will be like in six months, let alone in 2112.
But some of the actions taken by Hill County residents in 2013 will have an impact for the next century. It is encouraging to see community leaders and regular folks taking a look at our future and what we can do to prepare for it.
The most immediate concern is the impact of the Bakken oil field and oil development along the Rocky Mountain Front.
It’s unlikely enough oil will be found so that it will economically feasible to drill here. But the county may well be in a position to benefit from the economic growth elsewhere along the Hi-Line.
By proper planning, the county may be something of an economic center of the boom between the Bakken and the Front. It may be possible to gain some economic advantages without some of the growth problems faced in Williston, N.D.
Another energy-related economic boost for decades to come is coming from Montana State University-Northern, which is studying ways to convert camelina into biofuels. Northern should be credited for the work that could lead to a substantial number of jobs for the area if indeed the biofuels are processed here.
Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation tribal council is making some encouraging efforts for economic development in that part of the county.
After years of floundering, the casino seems to be on firm ground and is planning some interesting things.
Many on the reservation feel that if other parts of the county would help in promoting Northern Winz Casino, both the reservation and restaurants and hotels in Havre would benefit. Canadians are heading to Northern Winz in greater numbers, and they already drive through Havre en route to the casino. That provides Havre businesses with the opportunity to get more business.
We hope the county puts greater emphasis on the historic locations in Hill and neighboring counties. By seeking local, state and federal funding to restore and enhance some sites as Fort Assinniboine, Havre Beneath the Streets, Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump, Blaine County Museum and Bear Paw Battlefield, we will be keeping alive our rich history.
Fort Assinniboine is at a critical stage in its history. Most of the buildings have not been used in a century, and they need repair if they are to survive the cold Hi-Line winters. It would be a shame if this important part of our heritage were to rot.
These valuable resources could be used to attract visitors to our area or convince tourists headed to or from Glacier National Park to stay here in our hotels and eat in our restaurants.
Preserving our history should be a vital concern as we head into our second century.
From the day the city was founded 120 years ago, education has been a high priority for Havre and its residents.
Today, more than ever, it is vital to the area’s future.
The area is blessed with two great colleges. More than anything else, the country's future depends on having a well-trained work force. People looking for jobs or to upgrade their skills need to have and institution of higher education
Since Northern opened, it has had to fight for funding from Helena, which has always found it easy to slash funding for far-away Havre.
Fortunately, the Havre community has always rallied in behalf of the college. In the beginning, it helped build some of the buildings. It has supported sports teams, rallied support for new projects and this year, community members even sewed curtains for dorm rooms.
This year, we hope the community rallies in behalf of efforts to get a new auto tech building constructed. Two years ago, people thought it was shoe-in that the Montana Legislature would OK funding for this and other college projects. At the last minute, the legislation was pushed aside. We should make every effort to see that there is no repeat of that tragedy.
Stone Child College is a tremendous asset to the county, providing people with quality education and services they need to acquire that education. It has been a valuable tool to Native Americans and an increasing number of non-Natives who want to improve their lives.
Those are just some of the challenges that Hill County faces as it starts its second century. We are encouraged that efforts are being made in all parts of the community to meet the challenges head-on.
The world is changing by the second, and so must the county’s effort to improve the quality of life in this very special part of the world.
The spirit of the homesteaders who arrived here a century ago is still part of the lifeblood of the area. In a lot of ways, the cards are stacked against the Hi-Line, but we have something the rest of the world doesn’t have: The spirit of those homesteaders.