Thisprocesshasbroughtourcommunitytogether and…iscreatingastrongerandmoreeconomically viablefutureforcentralMontana. This town of 6,000 in the heart of Montana is like much of rural America, according to resident Jennifer Pfau. For the past few decades, Lewistown has lost young people to bigger cities as they seek education and careers. And just a few years ago, a drive along the town’s Main Street afford- ed unsettling images of boarded up shops and mostly empty sidewalks. Then, the community had few tangible prospects to reverse course. “We needed to figure out how to get back on track,”Pfau said recently, as she and her husband readied to take over his family’s business, which has been in operation for seven decades.“We were at a point of make-or-break.” Fortunately, the Pfau family was not alone in believing that there’s power in numbers, and in fall 2015, more than 70 Lewistown residents gathered to look at ways to better their economic outlook. This was not just any bull session, rather a structured meeting to learn about RCAC’s Building Rural Economies (BRE) initiative, which helps rural com- munities network, plan and implement economic devel- opment initiatives.“What was really emphasized was that businesses and organizations here were all trying to move forward but that we could be so much more efficient and effective if we communicated better,”Pfau says. That meeting marked a turning point for the community. Since then, four new businesses – a restaurant, a quilt shop, a construction company and a novelty store – have opened in Lewistown. At least one owner, says Pfau, credits BRE with giving local entrepreneurs the courage to buy property and open their doors. A downtown revitalization group, of which Pfau is a mem- ber, also grew out of the BRE training. Last year, the group set its sights on the largest vacant building in downtown Lewistown. Members considered how to remodel and mar- ket it to tenants; eventually an investor bought the building and is now converting the space into retail and office units. “We credit the BRE process with creating buzz about the project,”Pfau says.“There was excitment and interest; this idea of what could be possible. That’s what we need here, and that’s how BRE helped us. This process has brought our community together and taught us how to rethink 21st century economics, which in turn is creating a stronger and more economically viable future for central Montana. It is one of the best programs to ever be offered locally and we view it as a turning point for our rural community.” Jennifer Pfau