Regional Plan 2015-2035

Northcentral Montana’s regional economy, frontier history, rural environments, and small towns are part of our shared identity. In 2012 and 2013, residents told us that they prefer sustainable development to either a “boom & bust” scenario or continued loss of rural population. Their input guided our planning process, which included governments, organizations, and residents of 11 counties and three reservations. Working together, Vibrant Futures Consortium partners identified common goals and developed best strategies that reflect the needs and desires of communities.

We found that every town has its own economic strategies, and every community contributes to the regional economy. Diverse communities rely on one another for services and consumers. They strive to maintain essential services such as grocery stores and gas stations, to revitalize downtown areas, to attract more businesses, and to improve transportation, infrastructure and housing.

You can download the full Regional Plan, the Regional Plan Summary, the Growth Policy Review and the Report Card which can be used in the planning process for any area.


Growth Through Agriculture Program

The Growth Through Agriculture (GTA) program was established by the Montana Legislature to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agricultural industry. GTA is a grant and loan program that supports efforts of businesses developing new agricultural products and processes. Local Food and Agricultural Development Centers (FADC) can assist in project planning and application materials. 

Click here to learn more. 

Building from the Best, Northern Rockies

This document provides best practices for development in Rocky Mountain territory and the rural Midwest. In addition, it reviews case studies of the application of these best practices in local towns and cities, including Fort Benton and Rocky Boy, MT. Finally, this work provides suggestions for policy reform for the most successful development in rural locations. 

Building from the Best of the Northern Rockies

Regional Census Data

The following Excel files contain detailed census data for the region. If you do not have Excel, you can download the Excel Viewer.

This information and more census related information is also available here.

Arts-based Community Development Investment for the Hi-line

Opportunity Link has been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to receive $100,000 for a creative placemaking project to support vibrant rural and tribal communities in Northcentral Montana with the arts at their core. Opportunity Link will receive $100,000 to plan a Hi-Line Arts Trail and commission public art.

Contact: Andi Daniel,, 406-265-3699 for more information.  

Creating Competitive Rural and Tribal Communities

This paper highlights the need for collaboration among planning organizations and implementation agencies in the success of economic and community development strategies. The paper also offers insider information on best practices for capacity building in rural communities, with lessons learned and case studies in rural and tribal development. Read the full paper for more in-depth details. 

Creating Competitive Rural and Tribal Communities

Baseline Indicator Data

For every Regional Plan Area of Focus, we identified a handful of significant quantitative indicators from easily accessed commercial and government data sources. They are all available for counties; some are available for municipalities and reservations as well. The following Excel files provide a starting point for measuring progress towards Regional Plan objectives over the next 20 years.

Population Pyramids

Population pyramids show the number of males and females, by age groups, who live in a community at a given moment. These diagrams allow us to easily compare demographic differences between metropolitan areas, rural towns, and reservations. They illustrate the tendency of big cities to have many residents of working age, while rural small towns have growing populations of elderly residents, and reservations have relatively more young children and youth. Below are the pyramids for the U.S., Montana, and several towns in the region. You can also download a PDF of all pyramids here.