Published September 1, 2003 | September 2003 issue
Hot tubs, fishing tackle and local art, though perhaps not the most traditional of associations, are apparently nonetheless one winning combination for Montana in the global economy. This summer, the Montana World Trade Centera Missoula-based entity that helps Montana's local businesses grow and enter international marketsorganized a trade trip to Ireland for several Montana artists, hot-tub manufacturers and fishing tackle producers. While across the Atlantic, the trade center connected Montana vendors with government officials and European buyers. Already since the voyagers' return, local artists and businesses have made $500,000 in sales to the Emerald Isle. One Montana producer is shipping 25 hot tubs to Ireland in August. A fishing-gear company, employing three when it was sponsored by the trade center to go to Ireland, now hopes to expand to 12 positions by autumn.
Several on the trip stated that there were good markets in Ireland for their specialized products: Not only were the Irish apparently greatly taken with the Montana paintings (primarily landscape); they also, reportedly, associate Montana with top-notch fishing, creating a heightened demand for fishing tackle from the state. Vendors acknowledged another important factor driving demand for their products: the relatively weak dollar, bolstering Old World purchases of New World exports.