One of the interesting things about Montrose is how people find their way here and become permanent residents. For Howard Davidson, the path to Montrose was a bit lengthier than most. Davidson was born and raised in Northern Ireland. He then went to university in England and eventually became an investment banker in Asia.
In 1988, Davidson was part of six families, all elders in a church in Hong Kong at the time, that purchased what he described as a holiday property. This was at the behest of Gary Stephens, the younger brother of Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens.
“Gary at the time was working with the Vietnamese boat people finding them homes in Hong Kong. He kept telling us what an awesome place the Western Slope is and what an awesome place Montrose is,” Davidson said. “Those were holiday homes for most of us. Now three of us couples live here full time.
“We fell in love with Montrose from the first time we came here. In 2008 when the pace of Asia became pretty hard and was a young person’s place. We relocated here full time.”
After he graduated from university in England with a degree in economics. He then worked for Barclay’s Bank in England for several years before he was transferred to Asia.
He then went to work for what is now known as Morgan Stanley. While in Asia he had a marketing area that covered places from Japan to Australia to Pakistan.
Davidson described that time of his life as living in airplanes. His job had him traveling to all the Asian Pacific. Last month his United Airlines credit card reached the two-million-mile mark.
Davidson has been married to his wife, Liz, for 45 years. They have two daughters who each have two children.
After moving to Montrose, Davidson took a couple of years to enjoy the Western Slope. He spent time riding his horses, skiing Telluride and the like.
Then Davidson decided it was time to go back to work. In the Montrose Daily Press he found a classified ad from Farmers Insurance. They were looking for someone to open a business in Montrose.
Davidson replied to the ad and then opened a scratch agency, not a single policy to his name. In 2013 he purchased Greg Bollig’s Farmers Insurance agency.
Aside from insurance coverage, Davidson’s agency offers a financial advisory service as well.
“I never thought there would be a demand for the financial advisory part of the business, but what I found was there was a huge demand,” he said. “I started off handling the $20,000 accounts, but the business has grown since then. I still give as much time to the guy who comes in with $100 a month to put into his IRA and has no other form of retirement savings. I’ll give him as much time as the guy with a million bucks in his account.”
Davidson’s agency has been chosen a President’s Council agency the past four years. Less than 1 percent of all Farmer’s agencies are recognized for this award, a recognition not only for business success but local community involvement.
“I go once a year to spend a weekend with the president of the company because this is a real business advisory council,” Davidson said. “Out of 15,000 agencies only the top 100 agencies are selected.”
In 2018 Davidson was selected as Financial Agent of the Year at their annual meeting.
“I never for a minute expected that I would be appointed the financial services agent of the year,” he said. “It’s an evening very much like the Oscar awards. The head of the financial services went up with a sealed envelope and announced that Howard Davidson was the winner. I was shocked and honored. It was fun.”
The good and bad of Montrose
Davidson says that Montrose’s strength is the diversity of its people — diversity being the way that the people of Montrose accept each other. Whether it’s a long time resident or a new resident, everyone has a voice, he said, everyone is accepted. Montrose has grown not only in population but into a community with services for its citizens.
“Montrose has grown incredibly over the years, yet the people have stayed very open. They have not resented people coming to live in Montrose. They’ve welcomed them, and that’s a great strength,” he said.
The biggest threat to Montrose in Davidson’s opinion is the lack of affordable housing. “It is difficult to buy a home in Montrose on a reasonable salary. We are pricing ourselves out of the market for people who need to work here in the service sector, as Telluride has done.”
Davidson sees one possible solution, as has been done in Telluride — reserve an area of Montrose that would have a controlled price for homes and a controlled resell price for those homes, which could be centrally controlled.
“We need in Montrose to do something to make the price of housing affordable so that people can live here and have a good lifestyle. I think it’s a real problem,” Davidson said.
Dennis Anderson is group publisher for Wick Communications, Alaska and Colorado. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.