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LCCDC hires new executive director

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RONAN – Jim Thaden is the new leader at the helm of Lake County Community Development Corporation. In his position, Thaden will head the multi-faceted organization to advance development in the area. 

“I’ve done this kind of work all my life, and it’s a real treat when you get to hit the ground running,” he said.

Thaden recently moved to Ronan from Bozeman. He spent the last five years working in community development in an international setting. His work brought him to rural Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. While those places seem a world away from Lake County, Thaden thinks the skills he learned there will apply to his new work. 

The rich culture in the valley attracted Thaden to the area. He also admires the natural resources and beauty that the area offers and compares them to the mountainous regions he worked in abroad. He said rural communities overseas and in Montana face some of the same development challenges. 

Most recently, he served as the director of the Central Asian Institute in Bozeman. Thaden said when he decided to stop working overseas he looked for a rural Montana community to serve. He called Ronan the “perfect fit.” 

“I am very enthusiastic about this region,” he said. “The mountains, the lake, the river, the valley and the people are world class.” 

Thaden said his approach to development in the Lake County area would center on balancing development and care for the area’s natural resources. “I think developing the economy while preserving the quality of the natural resources is the key to developing a better quality of life for people in the area,” he said. 

Thaden said he plans to improve the quality and reach of the programs the organization already has in place. The group has four different focuses. LCCDC helps small businesses develop, has a food processing center, advises local businesses on cooperative development and encourages community development. 

The organization’s former executive director, Gypsy Ray, announced her resignation from that role over a year ago. Since Ray left the position Billie Lee, founding director of LCCDC, has acted as interim executive director.  

In his free time, Thaden enjoys hunting, fishing and hiking. He plans to engage with the community outside of his work. He has two daughters and three granddaughters. 

Recently, LCCDC has been involved in the restoration of the Ronan arch and the development of the Ronan Farmers Market. The corporation’s food processing center has just wrapped up processing squash for the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. 

The group is supporting a number of businesses in Lake County with loans. The center has been offering technology assistance classes. LCCDC has also contributed to the Polson Redevelopment Area’s effort to restore Main Street.

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