Is Missoula Montana Now a ‘Little’ Seattle?
If you've lived in just about any medium-sized city (town?) then you've probably used this descriptor: "Oh, [Medium Town] is just a 'little' [Big City]."
When I was growing up, Missoula was referred to as "Little Portland" as in, Portland Oregon. It certainly influenced the "Keep Missoula Weird" motto, but there are other reasons it's easy to see how Missoula is like a smaller version of Portland (arts, music, universities, activism, you get the idea). Another example is when I lived in Portland, Maine the city was considered "Little Boston."
Related: Is Missoula the New San Francisco With Little Affordable Housing?
I was having a conversation with someone from Seattle and we started to talk about the ways that Missoula is starting to resemble the Emerald City. So here's my hot take.
To everyone who feels like Missoula has changed dramatically over the last five to ten years, maybe it's because Missoula isn't "Little Portland" anymore. Maybe it's because Missoula is "Little Seattle."
I tested out my theory on a few coworkers and some of them were adamant that we're still "Little Portland" but a few of them immediately got shocked looks on their faces and said, "We USED to be Portland but NOW we're Seattle!"
How about some "evidence" to support this hot take:
Kurt Cobain Fans Per Capita
I have no scientific data to back this up, but anecdotally, I think Missoula might hold the most Kurt Cobain fans per capita, after Seattle.
This might be one of the issues that Missoulians are most vocal about. A Missoulian article from the fall of 2022 included data from a Point in Time data and Housing inventory which showed that Missoula has the largest unhoused population in the state. Homelessness is also a challenge in both Portland and Seattle. What I think makes it more similar to Seattle, though, are factors like unaffordable living and insufficient housing.
Driving on Wet Snow
Drop a driver from Seattle and a driver from Missoula on a road with a fresh coat of wet snow and I'll bet that both of them drive (poorly) the same way.
While Portland and Seattle might be more similar to each other in terms of how much sun they get (in percentage), Missoula doesn't get much more sun than they do.
Overheard in a Coffee Shop
If you walk into a coffee shop in Seattle and a coffee shop in Missoula, you'll overhear a conversation where someone is complaining about gentrification and new developments.
Obviously, Seattle is a major tech hub but there are more than a few tech startups here in Missoula, too.
Seattle's architecture feels very modern and Missoula seems to be headed toward that steel and glass aesthetic.