Clay Greathouse is “Captain All America City” with the Montrose All America City logo,  photo by Clay Greathouse

Clay Greathouse is “Captain All America City” with the Montrose All America City logo,
photo by Clay Greathouse

By Liesl Greathouse

(August 20, 2013)  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Montrose, winner of the All-America City Award!  Considered a tremendous recognition of civic accomplishments, Montrose became one of ten winners of the 2013 All-America City Award.  The city won the Award due to the hard work and collaboration of three organizations: Welcome Home Montrose, the Downtown Development Authority, and the Montrose Forest Products sawmill.


As the All-America City Award for 2013 focused on communities supporting military families, Welcome Home Montrose was the inspiration for applying this year.  Welcome Home Montrose is a community based, volunteer powered initiative to create a bridge for veterans and their families into civilian life.


Melanie Kline, President of Welcome Home Montrose, said, “The award is a feather in our hat for how our community works together for large projects like this.  It is a point of civic pride and I am really excited for people to know and make veterans more visible in their communities.”


Welcome Home Montrose continues to grow and adjust for the future.  “As we identify gaps and strengthen services on behalf of veterans and their families, more veterans will visit and stay,” Melanie explained.


The Warrior Resource Center will also continue to play an important part.  “We tie together all services (educational, job, medical), anything to do with military families, they can find here,” She explained.


The community involvement has greatly encouraged Melanie.  “I love meeting the amazing people who want to support the troops,” She said.  “When we opened, we opened a portal of giving, from money to cookies to furniture.  We are a big exchange place, offering friends and connections.  It has been amazing watching all of it happen.  It has become much bigger than I ever imagined.”


Melanie hopes to have a lot more veterans move to Montrose. “We have an amazing quality of life in Western Colorado,” She explained.  “The suicide rates of veterans makes me sad.  If we can help with that, it is worth it.”


In addition to helping veterans, Montrose has also been working to help local businesses.


The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been working hard to establish Downtown Montrose as a strong business, social and cultural center.  The organization was created in 2010 by a vote of the people in the zone that the DDA covers.


Bob Brown, owner of Around the Corner Art Gallery and Interim Director of the DDA, explained, “The DDA was put in place because of the troubles that businesses Downtown were facing.  We want to create an environment where strong businesses can thrive and where people can enjoy.”


The DDA started off by conducting promotions to help draw people to Downtown businesses.  Since its creation, 39 businesses have been started in the zone.  Another important part is its revolving loan fund, the Downtown Opportunity Fund, used to help businesses with facade improvements and expansion.  It is also a Main Street Community, part of a national organization.


For Bob, being able to see businesses grow in the area has been incredible. “I’m a business owner and I have seen the community shift from worrying about losing businesses, to growing the businesses that are here,” He said. “We are riding towards becoming a more vibrant, thriving community Downtown, attracting people from Montrose and the region.”


Even though the Award may not be monetary, Bob sees the value as being a sign to locals: “It signals to the community that we can come together, and to adjacent communities that we are a place of potential,” He said.  “We are alive, moving forward, doing good things, and this is national recognition of a community effort pulled together.”


Jobs in Montrose are important, and being able to keep viable businesses in the area is crucial.  One such business has made the area unique, as Montrose is home to the largest sawmill in the western states that remains today.


However, the sawmill (formerly called Intermountain Resources) was put into receivership in 2009 for three years.


Sandy Head, President/Executive Director of Montrose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), was part of the effort to get the sawmill back up and running.  “MEDC works to retain companies, help them expand, and bring new ones in,” She explained.  “At the time, our community worried about the loss of jobs.  Because our mission is keeping jobs in Montrose, we worked with other organizations for three years talking with potential buyers.”


MEDC was eventually able to find a buyer, who purchased the mill in 2012 and renamed it Montrose Forest Products LLC.  “Over 250 viable jobs were saved,” Sandy said.  “It was a huge victory for Montrose and Colorado.  We cannot lose a sawmill with all the beetle trees we have here.”


For Sandy, the Award is encouraging for the city.  “It shows that we are a good place to spend time in to people coming into our community,” She explained.  “This Award is part of moving forward in a healing, positive way.”


Sandy believes that the Award helps to highlight how Montrose is becoming better each day.  “We work to bring businesses in, bring jobs in, and increase the quality of life in the area,” She said.  “We have been nurturing businesses here and creating a positive business climate.  We have the potential to continue to grow at a higher rate of speed.”


On August 22, there will be the All-America City Celebration in front of the Warrior Resource Center at 6:15 p.m., during Main In Motion.  The celebration will include remarks from local, state and national dignitaries and recognition of the Montrose All‑America City (AAC) delegation.


Thanks to community effort and collaboration, Montrose now has the honor of being recognized as an All-America City, a place that values veterans and their families, downtown business and development, and sustainable job growth in the forest industry.  Hopefully by working together Montrose will continue to make strides forward, supporting ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way.’