Downtown Billings Alliance CEO announced, will forge ahead with - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Downtown Billings Alliance CEO announced, will forge ahead with growing 'connectivity' of downtown

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BILLINGS - Magic City's downtown was left with a leadership hole when both executive director Lisa Harmon and development director Greg Krueger resigned at the end of 2017 from the Downtown Billings Alliance.

On Wednesday, a committee charged with finding Harmon's replacement announced a new CEO from among 16 applicants.

Katy Easton, who had previously worked with Big Sky Economic Development as a project manager, will take over, and she said she plans to continue ahead with the work Harmon and Krueger forged over the years.

"I think Billings is on the verge of doing amazing things, and I think the downtown is right at the heart of that," Easton said. "It's going to be an integral part for making sure that Billings is poised to take on other communities and be something amazing in Montana and the country. And I think downtown Billings right at the heart of that."

Downtown has a wide footprint, extending from the Moss Mansion to the Metra and the Rims to the Yellowstone River.

Easton said plans to improve that entire area need to be interconnected. 

"I think we need to keep up that energy and effort and that excitement that brings that life and that energy into the downtown, but moving into Montana Avenue where great things are happening. People are developing and buying property with these visions to really create something amazing with housing and retail and restaurants."

Easton says she wants DBA to encourage and enable a sense of connectivity beyond "a pocket here and a pocket there" of businesses and lifestyle.

With the One Big Sky Center having converted to conceptual plans to revitalize downtown into phased districts, Easton said the city needs to encourage any kind of economic development in the area.

"Anybody that we can get to come in and have this vision for our community, something that's really going to improve it, can only benefit us," said Easton. "It's our job at the Downtown Billings Alliance to support the research of that project and how we can make it work for our community and our region."

She says explore, educate, and advocate are three words to go by with the One Big Sky development. But it extends beyond just that potential in the future of Billings. Those words will need to be used when the discussion of tax increment finance dollars are brought to the table for other projects and will be key in leveraging opportunity into reality.

"Tax increment finance dollars are really valuable. It's a proven tool in many communities. I think that we can show how our partner communities have used those dollars and really go shout it on the mountain of how our projects in downtown have been successful because of tax increment financing.

"I think it comes down to educating, making sure people really understand. I think there is a misconception of what those dollars really are and how they're used. It's something that by educating people then we have further advocates for that, it's a tool that we need advocates for statewide."

Easton will assist the committee in the search for Krueger's replacement. 

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