Economic Development: Mike Coryell's retirement will leave big shoes to fill

Only once in a great while does an organization find a person as dedicated to their cause as Mike Coryell, according to local economic development officials.

And his efforts for the past decade as executive director of the Miles City Area Economic Development Council (MCAEDC) and the loan officer of the Southeastern Montana Development Corporation (SEMDC) have paid off for the Miles City area. During his tenure, he’s helped net more than $9 million in grants, and helped create about 300 jobs.

Coryell will leave big shoes to fill, as his tenure comes to an end. He recently decided to retire. 

“This has been a journey just to make this decision,” said Coryell. “I love this job so much.”

According to Coryell, recent health issues and the desire to spend more time with his children and grandchildren were what pushed his decision over the edge. 

Coryell, 66, grew up in Cut Bank and attended college at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman before finishing his degree at Montana State University-Billings (MSU-B). He earned a degree in finance and accounting.

While at MSU and MSU-B Coryell played baseball. 

“I’m a pretty die-hard Bobcat fan, as you can see,” said Coryell as he gestured toward the vast collection of memorabilia displayed in his office. As a die-hard fan he continues to attend sporting events to support the teams.

Coryell said he has three loves in life — his children and grandchildren, sports and his fiancé, Jan.

After college he eventually moved to Colstrip and worked there for 30-plus years for NorthWestern Energy in administration and accounting. 

According to Coryell, he needed a change and with the help of John Laney, the executive director of the Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce, he found that change in Miles City. 

At the time he was contracting with NorthWestern Energy until they found a replacement.

“We refereed a football game one day and were coming back from it and I said something about my contract being up soon. And he said that he had the perfect job for me,” Coryell recalled. “He told me about this.”

According to Coryell, the whole situation is ironic because after hearing about the job from Laney he called Jim Atchison in Colstrip about the opportunity. By that time the job had closed and they were already interviewing candidates. Coryell told him that if for some reason they didn’t hire anyone to give him a call. A few days later Atchison called and set up an interview. An hour after he interviewed for the job he was informed he had been hired. 

“They offered me the job and here I am,” said Coryell.

Other than work Coryell had been a sporting official for 48 years before his retirement earlier this year. 

“I refereed high school football for 29 years, high school and college basketball for 27 years, and I’ve umpired college, high school, legion, and fast-pitch softball for 48 years,” said Coryell. “The reason I did that is because I love to challenge the game, the challenge of being good at what you do. But mostly I like to go out and give positive input to the kids, the players.”

According to Coryell, talking to the kids in a positive way helps build relationships with the players and coaches. 

In those many years he’s also officiated many tournaments. 

“A lot of games. I can’t even remember how many,” said Coryell. “I think around 56 tournaments or something. But that was the love of my life for quite awhile.”

He retired from officiating so he could spend more time with his family. 

Coryell has four children, and will soon have eight grandchildren. All of his children except for one live in Montana.

While working as executive director and loan officer he has been able to witness a lot of economic progress in Miles City. 

Some of the proudest accomplishments for Coryell are graduating 179 people from the Leadership Miles City class, helping create new businesses, and creating around 300 more jobs in the area. 

Through grants and loans Coryell has helped bring in over $9 million dollars into the community.

According to Coryell that is just the dollar amounts. He’s also worked on several major projects over the years including helping the college purchase the old armory, helping the city with the detention center, and the Valley Drive sewer line project. 

“These have been huge, huge projects for the community,” said Coryell. 

He said he has high hopes for his successor, noting he is looking forward to seeing whoever replaces him continue growing the organization and working closely with MCAEDC and SEMDC.

His future plans are still up in the air. He spoke about the possibility of moving out of Miles City to be closer to his children and grandchildren but nothing has been decided. Until the decision is made he plans to continue being involved in the community as much as he can. 

“People are what makes your life tick,” said Coryell. “People are what makes Miles City tick. I love the people and this job has been a wonderful opportunity.”

Coryell’s official retirement date is Nov. 1 but he will continue working until a replacement has been found.