The Story Behind, and Future of,
Make Bozeman Montana Again
Whenever someone new walks into the Aspinwall store, they make a little loop. Inevitably, they stop at the Make Bozeman Montana Again rack and give a little chuckle.
It’s a funny quip, but it’s addressing a more serious concern – what makes Montana the Last Best Place is being overrun by development. While progress isn’t a bad thing, this progress is changing and reshaping what we love and hold dear.
This genuine concern is not a political issue but rather an evaluation of 'what do we want Montana to look like in twenty years.'
It’s a sentiment that is bi-partisan. Both sides of the political aisle have legitimate concerns for Bozeman and its surrounding areas. This trademark was designed to spark the conversation of how to keep Montana, .. well, Montana.
The Idea Behind the Slogan
Derek Aspinwall was driving through Bozeman, on his way to Big Sky, discouraged (but not surprised) by how much development has happened in Gallatin County over the past decade. With the family in tow, and a hot slogan from a politician at the time on everyone’s minds, he quipped, “This isn’t the Bozeman I remember, we need to Make Bozeman Montana Again.”
They laughed a little about it, and the more the slogan was considered, the more it made sense.
Let’s zoom out a bit; we can see another example that went the other way.
Maui, Hawaii is considered to be one of the top tourist destinations in the entire world. The Aspinwall family has had the opportunity to visit three times in the last 12 years.
This highly regarded destination sees more than its share of tourists, and you would think that with such popularity, the development should be rampant. New buildings, condos, improved roads, and every hospitality feature you could think of should be here. But the reality is, Maui hasn’t changed that much in the last decade. Yes, there has been development, but it’s not at the frantic rate and pace that Bozeman has seen.
It’s mostly in part that the Hawaiians have done a fantastic job of maintaining the Polynesian culture and lifestyle. Change has happened, but it’s still the hang loose Polynesian lifestyle that they love, respect, and protect.
Now the question is, are Montanans insightful enough to do the same thing? To take meaningful action to preserve the Last Best Place. Do we care about our Montanan lifestyle enough to put our foot down and calm the “progress?”
What does Make Bozeman Montana Again Mean?
Yes, it’s a play on a hot political slogan… or at least one that used to be all over the place.
But the idea behind it isn’t to take a political stance – it’s to take a stance that we love Montana. We love the culture, the values, and the heritage that we grew up with. And we love that people want to make it their own.
But as more and more of Montana is bulldozed to make way for condos, more and more of our culture is bulldozed along with it.
Do we just sit back and let this movie play out? Where will we be in 20 or 30 years if we don’t do anything? Or will we take a look at how Hawaii has been able to preserve their culture, stave off over-development, and maintain what makes them one of the top destinations in the world?
The Make Bozeman Montana Again trademark is intent on keeping the conversation going and raising awareness until something changes.
So, What’s the Solution to Actually Making Bozeman Montana Again?
Of course, we can just hoot and holler about how things are changing and we don’t like it. But that’s not what this is about. We know that things will change, and progress will happen. People love Montana – that’s why this is an issue in the first place.
But the frantic pace of development (yes, frantic is intentionally used here – development is fine but this mad rush to over-develop is causing huge problems) is unsustainable and pushing out the very values and culture people come for. Not to mention, destroying the scenery and forcing locals to relocate. Montana is about getting away from it all, but Gallatin County is surging to big city numbers with no end in sight.
There are several ideas for solutions that could calm the pace of development in the state.
One idea that has come up is to do a tiered property tax. Those who have lived in Montana for decades get the lowest tier – we’ve been here a long time knowing, loving, and respecting the Montana culture. We aren’t saying that out-of-staters can’t move here, it just costs extra. Perhaps 0 to 5 years they pay the highest tier of taxes (maybe even 5 times as much as the lowest tier). Then, years 6 to 10, they are at another tier; 10 to 20 another, and 20+ gets the “Montana Discount.”
It's similar to out-of-state tuition – if you live in Montana, you get lower rates. Or out-of-state elk tags. A Montana resident can pick up a general elk tag for about $20; non-residents pay around $1,000. We want people to come hunt and enjoy Montana, but it comes with a price.
At least some counties in California have, or at least had, a rule where property could be passed to heirs without an adjustment in property taxes. For example, if you bought a condo for $500,000 several decades ago, you paid taxes as though it was valued at $500,000. Now, let’s say that condo is valued at $3,000,000 – you still pay the lower tax rate until you sell it. But, there is (or at least was – I’m not an accountant or a property tax expert) a caveat that if you pass that real estate to a family member, and they use it as their primary residence, they can still benefit from that lower property tax rate.
That means seniors who are on fixed incomes, living in modest houses that have been paid off for years wouldn’t be forced out due to ever-increasing taxes and insurance rates (yeah, insurance companies would need to get on board with this too).
Populations are going to grow. But they have to be done at a reasonable rate.
What’s the Future of the Make Bozeman Montana Again Brand?
This trademarked slogan has been great for Aspinwall Mountain Wear. It has sparked a lot of conversation, garnered a lot of support, and helped set the stage for what needs to happen to preserve Montana values, culture, and heritage. After doing a billboard outside of Bozeman for a month, interest levels and social media exploded with many other people concerned with the issue. In fact Aspinwall was contacted by NBC National News to potentially do a story on it. This news story never materialized but the message was heard loud and clear throughout the country.
The message needs to advance. It needs someone that will be able to take it, use it as a platform, and not just inspire conversation, but also to be a catalyst for real change. Because Aspinwall Mountain Wear has an entire clothing lineup, it’s more than can be handled in house.
Therefore, the trademarked brand is for sale. And there’s a ton of potential for someone who wants to run with this.
Over the last few years, Aspinwall has sold hundreds of items with the slogan – mostly in the form of t-shirts and stickers. But if you consider the similar political statement, where do you see it most?
“This trademark has been a top seller for us for several months and we haven’t even touched on hats yet.” says Derek Aspinwall, "Aspinwall is a direct to consumer company so our exposure is limited and a trademark slogan like this needs to be in stores all across the state. We have only scratched the surface of what this powerful trademark can do."
Because if we want to Make Bozeman Montana Again, we have to keep the conversation going, it has to go to the next level. It needs someone passionate that won’t let it die, move it forward, and spark a change.
Serious inquiries will be entertained, and the Aspinwall Team can fill you in on where the brand has been and the potential value if the right person will run with it.
Serious inquires email firstname.lastname@example.org