Kalispell wants to fill the space left vacant in the old Gateway West Mall when Stream International moved its jobs to Canada and closed up shop this summer. The city and the Flathead County Economic Development Authority own the space, but Stream is on the hook to pay its $275,000 annual rent until its lease is up in seven years.

At least one prospective tenant toured the facility recently, but Liz Harris with Jobs Now, Inc. won’t reveal the name of the call center company Kalispell is courting. She and Kalispell city officials may not be saying much about the potential Stream replacement, but Kalispell City Councilman Randy Kenyon wonders aloud about how far the public should be willing to go to woo another large employer.

“Bringing a new call center? How far should a city go to grovel? In Missoula, they say ‘Stick it in your ear—you get the same deal as anyone. We’re not bending over,’” says Kenyon, recalling the sweet deal Kalispell cut in order to lure Stream to the Flathead.

Stream returned the favor by misleading city officials and employees about its commitment to the Kalispell site. The Daily Inter Lake summarized Stream’s attitude toward the Flathead and its employees best when it asked one Stream staffer if working for the company had been a quality experience. Yes, the staffer said, “If you enjoy bending over and taking it.”

•••

When the Grand Western Conference of the Free State Project (a plan to get 20,000 people to move to one state and take over the government to make it more libertarian-minded) met in Missoula in late May, many of the Western attendees were confident that the majority of the project’s members would pick a Western state—probably Montana or Wyoming (see “Invasion of the Libertarians,” by Mike Keefe-Feldman, May 29, 2003). One Missoulian attendee and member of the Free State Project, Rich Angell, said, “I’ll go anywhere…nobody said this was going to be easy.”

If Angell is true to his word, he’ll soon be packing his bags and heading to New Hampshire, which got the majority of votes from Free State Project members on Oct. 1.

As soon as the decision was announced, the liberty cookie began to crumble, however, as one of the project’s Western leaders, Ben Irvin, fired off an e-mail stating that he’d be starting his own Western Free State Project, thank you very much. If liberty means moving to New Hampshire, you can count this guy out.

“Late last night [Free State Project President] Jason [Sorens] sent out an apology for the Hamster [we’re pretty sure he’s referring to New Hampshire] selection being made public 12 hours before the official announcement. He explained that this was an early Christmas gift,” Irvin wrote. “It reminded me of a childhood Christmas when…I was anticipating a new adult bike or a Marlin .22 youth rifle. Instead I’m given a tiny soft package containing Red Ryder underwear.”

The project currently has 4,782 members. Some Montanans may be disappointed that they won’t be dealing with a “legalize it” state government anytime soon; on the other hand, those fond of public schools may breathe a sigh of relief that Montana, for now, has weathered the invasion.

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