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Latest Montana Skim. Stay informed. Live Smarter. Join the Conversation.

Coming off a big win for the Bobcats this past weekend and gearing up for a long holiday weekend hopefully full of delicious food and gratitude, get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below.  This Livingston-based, veteran-owned company Svalinn trains some of the best protection dogs in the world Sometimes, the best answer to a threat to your well-being isn’t a gun, a knife or even your fists. Sometimes, the best answer has fur, barks ferociously, and gets along well with children and your loved ones, but knows how to turn up the heat when it’s go time. Montana-based Svalinn was one of the first companies in the civilian market to recognize this. The company, founded and operated by veterans of the US military, is named for the Norse mythological shield of ancient lore which is said to protect the Earth and its numerous inhabitants from the heat and fires of the Sun. And, that’s exactly what Svalinn dogs are — a shield. Svalinn offers civilian customers some of the most highly-trained canines in the world for personal protection and companionship. These dogs hail from a similar concept as the pooches various armed forces units use today, known military working dogs. These dogs, themselves the progeny of Svalinn-trained dogs, are put through an intensive build-up regime at the company’s 170-acre facility near Livingston, Montana. Using positive reinforcement, as well as a plethora of other techniques, these dogs are conditioned to live alongside humans, protect and defend their principals should the need arise, but also serve as loving and family-friendly companions wherever they are homed. One of the key ingredients in Svalinn’s success in producing and fielding over 200 dogs as of 2017 to scores of clients is the company’s trainers, all of whom are developed in-house (and they are hiring ). The company’s recruiting requirements for its trainers and handlers are seemingly very simple — candidates should not have any prior experience with other training houses, they need to love animals, and possess a strong work ethic. Once they’re qualified as trainers with the company, these matured handlers are easily counted among some of the most proficient and capable in their industry, empowered with a diverse skill set. [ Military Times ] Film + Innovation Festival to elevate female voices in film and leadership in the Big Sky State in Missoula December 5-8 The small city of Missoula has been recognized as a hub of outdoor recreation, cultural charm and technological innovation in the Rocky Mountain West. Companies, like global video platform Audience Awards , have sprung up from the minds of several of its most creative and industrious residents. Yet, Audience Awards founder Paige Williams sees room for growth, especially among female entrepreneurship — prompting Williams to bring her company’s annual live festival, AudFest: Film + Innovation Festival, home to Missoula, December 5 – 8, 2019. Previously held in Los Angeles, AudFest will screen the 100 best short films of the year from Audience Awards’ online video platform that receives more than 20,000 annual short film submissions from filmmakers around the world. AudFest’s Innovation track is the first of its kind in Montana, gathering female leaders and changemakers from the Big Sky State and beyond, like Alexandra Viglione, Cinedigm product marketing director; Sherri Davidoff, LMG Security CEO; and Lisa Stone, a managing director of WestRiver Group’s Opportunity Fund and co-founder of BlogHer. “A lot is changing right now,” Williams said, “We want to show female creators, leaders and everyone who strives to make a difference the amazing potential for growth within themselves, within their fields, and within their communities and beyond.”  [ Audience Awards ] Bozeman-based Bridger Brewing announces second location with amphitheater, distribution facility in Three Forks Bridger Brewing recently announced plans for a second location in Three Forks that will include, along with an additional brewery, a live-music amphitheater, grill, taproom, and distribution facility. The Bozeman-based brewery said in a press release groundbreaking is planned for Spring 2020, and the new location will be near the Copper City Trails on Highway 287 in Broadwater County. Brewmaster and Director of Operations Daniel Pollard said the new facility will help Bridger Brewing streamline its keg and can distribution while offering a "destination brewery experience." The business is in informal talks with area entertainment promoters for the new location's state-of-the-art amphitheater. [ KBZK ] The everything town in the middle of nowhere On any given day, thousands of packages from Walmarts, Targets, and stores around the country travel north along a two-lane road out of Billings, Montana to the town of Roundup, where they will be unboxed, re-boxed, and sent off to Amazon . At first glance, Roundup does not appear to be a hub for much of anything. But the geography of Amazon is strange: more than 150 million square feet of warehouses, distribution centers, and sortation depots located mostly in exurban sprawls and industrial zones, out of sight of the millions of customers who receive its goods on their doorstep. Even by Amazon’s standards, Roundup is an oddity. There’s no fulfillment center, Amazon’s term for the enormous warehouses where it stores and dispatches goods. In fact, there’s no official Amazon presence of any kind. Instead, Roundup is home to a growing industry of prep centers, businesses that specialize in packing goods to meet the demanding requirements of Amazon’s highly automated warehouses. Read more here . [ The Verge ] Grand opening: Mercantile adds 200 jobs in downtown Missoula The $30 million Mercantile building in the heart of downtown Missoula employs about 215 people among its nine new retail shops and Marriott Hotel, the Residence Inn . It held its grand opening last week, celebrating the new downtown additions. “At the hotel itself, we have almost 60 full-time jobs,” said Andy Holloran of HomeBased Partners , Mercantile owner and developer, at the building’s grand opening celebration Tuesday night. “Within the nine businesses, combined with four restaurants, a couple of retailers and stores, they have about 200 full-time employees.” Linda McCarthy, Downtown Missoula Partnership director, said the creation of Missoula jobs in the new building and the attraction of shoppers and diners is merely part of the equation. “It’s a lot of new customers for downtown,” said McCarthy. “I think occupancy of the new hotel has been really good since it opened in early March. But it’s also taxes going to the city, county and school districts.”She noted that HomeBased Partners will pay $500,000 a year in taxes. The price of lunches and dinners are comparable to other restaurants in Missoula, she added. [ Missoula Current ] Montana college in Havre works to meet the demand for diesel technicians Enrollment in trade degree programs has been on a decline, but one Montana school is hoping to change that fact. Montana State University-Northern in Havre is working to produce enough graduates of its diesel programs to meet the nationwide demand. “In this industry it's especially bad, the number of people that are coming to Northern every year is increasing, all of them looking for skilled technicians, of course that is what our specialty is,” MSU-Northern chancellor Greg Kegel said. The trade is called diesel technician, and right now companies are in high need of them – including Modern Machinery of Missoula ( hiring ). Learn more about the diesel program at MSU-Northern here . [ KPAX ] Montana State University in Bozeman bucks national trends on growth, spending In a decade when many American universities are struggling with falling enrollment, Montana State University’s student population has grown, along with its graduation numbers and spending on instruction. The fall report card was presented recently to campus leaders at the University Council. It gave an overview of how many students and employees the Bozeman campus has, how many students earned degrees and where the campus spends its general fund budget. “Things are going very well at Montana State University,” President Waded Cruzado said afterward. “What I really like is the campus is really unified behind the goals of our strategic plan. I’m excited about the future.” In the last ten years, MSU has increased the number of students graduating within six years, the federal standard, from 48.3% to 56.1%. The four-year graduation rate has also increased from 20.8% to 29.7%. And this year’s fall enrollment of 16,766 is the second highest in MSU’s history, up 31% from 12,764 in 2009. The report for 2009 to 2019 also showed tenured and tenure-track faculty and scientists increased 10.4% over the decade, from 537 to 593 full-time jobs. And nontenured faculty, such as adjunct instructors, increased 43% from 309 to 442 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ] Study looks at Hutterite impact on state economy, Montana jobs Montana's Hutterite communities contribute more than $365 million in annual spending for the state and 2,200 year-round Montana jobs, according to what is being touted as a first-of-its-kind study by the University of Montana and Montana State University . Our basic finding is that the presence of the 81 farming operations owned and operated by the 38 Lehrerleut communities examined in this study support production, employment and income in the Montana economy that is significant in size and scope,” the authors wrote. The 35-page report said its basic finding that the farming operations by the Lehrerleut communities, of which there are 4,318 members, “support production, employment and income in the Montana economy that is significant in size and scope.” More than 1,600 of the 2,200 Montana jobs which owe their existence to Hutterite communities are in a 10-county part of Montana north and east of Great Falls, the study said. Most of the jobs are in farming and farm support, construction, retail trade, health care and social assistance and food services. [ Great Falls Tribune ] Permanent film studio being built in Paradise Valley Many movies are set in Montana, few are filmed here. Often Utah and Canada are used as backdrops for the treasure state, but that is about to change. The Yellowstone Film Ranch is being built in Paradise Valley. Investors are planning on this permanent film studio to give Hollywood a run for its money. Producer and movie director Richard Gray is one of three investors creating the ranch, a group of 28 buildings under construction near Chico Hot Springs. Gray has filmed two movies in Montana and sees this permanent studio as a big boom for the state’s economy. “We employed almost 100 people in Livingston. We kept hotels open during the winter. We kept the bars running during the winter and we’re seeing the same thing again. And, these are lasting structures that will create jobs forever," says Gray. Livingston-based Soundcolor Studios has over 20 full-time workers helping build the film ranch. Project coordinator Abram Boice sees this as a great opportunity not only for businesses, but individuals. Boice mentors Park County high school students interested in the industry. “There are good, technical, high paying jobs that will be available for projects like this for decades to come.” [ NBC Montana ] Missoula sets record for job-creation grants; airline passengers see $14M in savings In fiscal year 2019, $1.4 million worth of state-funded job creation grants created 192 new jobs at eight different companies in Missoula, a new record. That’s according to Grant Kier, the executive director of the Missoula Economic Partnership , who was speaking at the organization’s annual update last week. On top of that, Kier added, Missoula County created more Montana jobs than any other county in the state last year with 1,720 new positions. The Big Sky funds go to Missoula County through the Montana Department of Commerce Office of Tourism and Business Development. Businesses must pay at least $19.65 per hour to be eligible for the maximum BSTF Job Creation grant award, which is up to $7,500 per full-time job created. Local tech companies were the biggest beneficiaries last year. ClassPass ( hiring ), a fitness tech company with offices in Missoula that’s growing in popularity worldwide, scored $300,000 in grant funds to create 40 Missoula-based jobs. Submittable ( hiring ) received $262,500 for 35 jobs, ATG-Cognizant ( hiring ) got $255,000 for 34 jobs and LumenAd ( hiring ) got $195,000 for 26 jobs. Consumer Direct Care Network ( hiring ), a home-health company, got $255,300 for 37 jobs, and smaller companies PatientOne , ALPS ( hiring ) and Reflex Protect split other awards. [ Missoulian ] Montana Apprenticeship Program signs first caregiver agency The first caregiver organization signed up for the Montana Apprenticeship Program last week. The program will provide 14 caregivers with dementia training at First Choice Home Health in Bozeman, where they say most of their patients are suffering from some form of dementia. With 50,000 caregivers in the state, staff at First Choice Home Health say they can suffer from "caregiver burnout." "The average retention rate for caregivers is one year, meaning after a year they want to move on," said Dreyer. It's why the business received a $4,600 grant to help their caregivers receive specialized training to give them a competitive edge, provide better service and be able to charge more. "We're going to need more health care workers, and so companies like this are going to be able to develop their own workforce and address the needs that they have," said Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. He says any business in Montana, no matter what industry, can benefit from the apprenticeship program through the state's Department of Labor. [ NBC Montana ] CBD manufacturing company opens in Ronan, Montana The first hemp-processing license in the State of Montana was issued to a Ronan business in November from the Montana Department of Agriculture . Green Ridge Biosolutions moved into a 15,000 square-foot building near Ronan in September. Sam Belanger, chief operations officer, said he looks forward to becoming part of the community. Belanger hopes to have a positive impact on the community by creating jobs and getting involved. “As a socially conscious business, we want to be members of the community,” he said. “We want to be involved with the food bank and other programs that work to help people, not just things that make you look good on paper. We want to do something that really helps.” He said the business could also have a multiplier effect on the community. He imagines the business growing to provide 30 local jobs and those employees will need haircuts and groceries and will spend their paychecks in local businesses. He said people will also travel to Green Ridge for business meetings and frequent restaurants and other services. [ Valley Journal ] Child care in Gallatin Valley: Bozeman Health Deaconess partners with MyVillage Co-founder and CEO of MyVillage ( hiring ), Erica Mackey, stopped by for a recent visit and interview. MyVillage was created out of Erica's own frustrations as a parent trying to find child care in the Gallatin Valley. Now, they have created a program where you can run a child care or preschool program for up to 6-12 kids out of your own home, with MyVillage providing resources and support services to ensure a high-quality program for children and thriving business for educators. A fast-growing network of exceptional child care programs currently operating in Montana and Colorado, MyVillage recently paired up with Bozeman's largest employer, Bozeman Health ( hiring ). MyVillage's business partnership is offering Bozeman Health employees preferred placement (bypassing waitlists) in MyVillage child care programs across Gallatin County. [ KBZK ] Whitefish-based xD Bio Inc. receives STTR grant for genomic work xD Bio Inc. , a privately held, Whitefish-based company announced today that the National Human Genome Research Institute , part of the National Institutes of Health , has awarded the company $149,959 over 6 months for the first phase of a Small Business Technology Transfer grant. The award supports researchers at xD Bio and collaborators at the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Data Coordinating Center at Stanford University to demonstrate the ability to run advanced computational analyses directly through a web interface on xD Bio's web based platform, Truwl.com. Truwl is xD Bio's flagship product that enables researchers to find, understand, use, and share computational methods for DNA sequencing data on a publicly available web-based platform. [ PR Newswire ] Helena-based nonprofit Mountain-Pacific Quality Healthy receives $15M federal contract for health care quality improvement The Helena-based nonprofit Mountain-Pacific Quality Health has received a $15 million federal contract to help improve the quality of health care in Montana and beyond. U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines announced this week that the nonprofit had received the five-year contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services . “It’s money we are going to be able to use to continue the work that we’ve done for many years, in partnership with the federal government,” said Sara Medley, Mountain-Pacific’s CEO. Mountain-Pacific currently has about 100 employees working around its region and is hiring . [ KXLH ] Helena business among 3 in state to receive inaugural awards for apprenticeships Tri-County Mechanical and Electrical in Helena was among the businesses across the state that received awards from the Montana Department of Labor for their apprenticeship last week. The Helena-based business was founded in 1972 and has offered apprenticeships for over 30 years. The business currently has 24 apprentices in Helena, Butte, Havre, Bozeman, Great Falls and Wyoming. Tri-County offers five-year apprenticeships in electrical engineering and plumbing. Additionally, they offer a four-year apprenticeship in sheet metal engineering. It is the first business to be honored by the labor department for its commitment to apprenticeship programs. "Investing in a skilled workforce is also an investment in our state's economy," Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney said. "Ninety percent of apprentices work in Montana after graduating." In addition to honoring Tri-County, the labor department also honored the Montana Health Network with the Emerging Apprenticeship Industry Excellence award for being the largest and most rapidly growing new apprenticeship industry in Montana, as well as Montana Sheet Metal Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee for being one of the largest sponsors of apprenticeships in the state working with businesses like Tri-County. [ Helena Air ]
Home of the free (and these breathtaking Montana sunsets)  because of the brave. To those in uniform serving and to those who have served, we honor and thank you. Find this week's skim of Montana business news below. Economic development grants awarded to six growing Montana businesses Six Montana businesses are sharing more than $600,000 in economic development grant awards to support the creation of up to 114 Montana jobs at growing businesses across Montana. A release from Governor Steve Bullock says the reimbursement grants will be awarded through two programs at the Montana Department of Commerce: The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) and the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant (WTG). According to Governor Bullock in the release, “These grants are critical to making those investments and enhancing partnerships with private business as they realize growth and opportunity.” The full list of grant recipients includes: Billings | Big Sky Economic Development Authority on behalf of Fort Belknap Planning and Development Corporation dba Island Mountain Development Group ; Bonner | Missoula County on behalf of Botanie Natural Soap, Inc ; Butte | Ray Holes Leather Care Products, Inc; Hamilton | Ravalli County on behalf of Montana Studio, LLC ; Malta | Phillips County on behalf of Big Sandy Meat Shop dba Hi-Line Packing; Missoula | Missoula County on behalf of Newfields Mining and Energy Services, LLC ( hiring ); and Missoula | Missoula County on behalf of The Insight Studio, LLC . [ KULR 8 ] Can Do: Montana tribe builds global tech powerhouse from scratch in St. Ignatius, Montana On this episode of Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs, S&K Technologies CEO, Chad Cottet, shares what it was like after he took over the operational reins in 2018 after having served as board chair for seven years. Turning a seed funding of $150,000 from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 1999 into S&K Technologies ( hiring ), the company has grown to a family of five companies of more than 900 employees with offices throughout the U.S. and around the world. From its headquarters on the Flathead Reservation, nestled in the Mission Valley in rural St. Ignatius, Montana, the company manages a complex government acquisition business that includes a landmark $4.2 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force. [ Montana Public Radio ] Gaining a foothold: Bedrock Sandals to bolster state’s booming recreation economy in Missoula Missoula and state outdoor industry leaders recently welcomed news that adventure footwear manufacturer Bedrock Sandals will relocate its flagship retail store and repair workshop from Richmond, California, to Missoula, as well as its corporate headquarters. Bedrock Sandals co-founders Nick Pence and Dan Opalacz announced their move from the high-priced San Francisco Bay Area, citing Missoula’s lower cost of living, rigorous affinity for the outdoors and a surging economic stewardship model. They’ll arrive in early 2020. The local shop will open with 5-7 employees, until it grows. While it remains to be seen exactly where Bedrock Sandals will locate its shop in Missoula, the industry as a whole looks very promising for Missoula residents seeking work. Additionally, Big Sky Fulfillment , a Missoula distribution company located near the airport, will handle inventory and distribution for Bedrock. CEO Patrick Claytor said his office will add one full-time employee and one part-time employee to service the Bedrock Sandals account. [ Missoula Current ] Supporting a community-led effort to boost eastern Montana tourism, business Over the last year, the Montana Department of Commerce worked with partners to hold 14 listening sessions with tourism and economic development leaders from 23 eastern Montana counties digging into the region’s needs, goals and on-the-ground expertise when it comes to showcasing all that eastern Montana has to offer. As a result of these efforts, the Department of Commerce is now working on goals of increasing visitation and strengthening business growth through a community-led collaboration called the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative . As a part of this initiative, the Office of Tourism and Business Development at Commerce is investing $1.3 million over two years in promotional marketing, local grants, staff expertise and new research to support the region’s objectives of enhancing marketing efforts and strengthening tourism amenities. The initiative kicked off in May with regional marketing campaigns to promote eastern Montana’s diverse landscapes, outdoor recreation opportunities, cultural experiences and family activities. The campaign transitioned this fall to a marketing campaign featuring eastern Montana’s vast upland bird hunting opportunities and will continue to shift over the next two years. [ Havre Daily News ] In demand: UM, tech industry announce initiative to train highly skilled workforce Missoula County’s booming tech businesses have partnered with the University of Montana in an effort to train the thousands of highly skilled employees needed in the next decade. The resulting Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative was unveiled last week at Missoula College. Tech leaders said they anticipate a shortage of at least 10,000 skilled employees in Montana as an estimated 100,000 baby boomers retire over the next 10 years. Jobs like cloud computing, fiber-optic cable installation/repair, cybersecurity and software engineering already are in demand. The across-the-industry initiative will provide real-world, hands-on training for UM students. Growth in the tech business sector is up 11% in Missoula County – compared to only 4% across Montana, said Grant Kier, Missoula Economic Partnership president and CEO. Among the other sponsors of the Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative are Allegiance ( hiring ), ATG a Cognizant Company ( hiring ), Blackfoot , Community Medical Center ( hiring ), The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation , Glacier Bancorp ( hiring ), Glaxosmithkline ( hiring ), Inimmune ( hiring ), iResponse , LMG Security ( hiring ), LumenAd ( hiring ), Montana Hospital Association ( hiring ), Silvergate Recruiting , Stockman Bank ( hiring ) and Submittable ( hiring ). [ Missoula Current ] Bozeman airport adds 8th airline, additional flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul An eighth airline has been added to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport’s offerings to passengers, the airport announced earlier this week. Sun Country Airlines in June will begin nonstop seasonal service to Minneapolis-St. Paul two days a week. Airport director Brian Sprenger said one-way tickets could be available for as little as $89. Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce President Daryl Schliem said the additional flights may add a boost to the Bozeman economy. “Every time we open a new direct flight and a new direct market, we see multiple businesses and multiple homeownership come (as a) result of that,” Schliem said. He also said the new flights may help curb the summertime vehicle traffic coming to the area from Minneapolis-St. Paul. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ] UM master’s degree in business analytics taps into booming job market A fifth-year master of science degree in business analytics has the University of Montana College of Business looking forward and onward as data becomes increasingly crucial across the board. The beauty of the program is that Zoom video conferencing allows busy business professionals to enroll part time or full-time students to study locally or elsewhere. The 32-credit, accelerated program covers the bases in many high-paying technical jobs. The types of jobs graduates secure include marketing analytics, digital analytics, business intelligence, data science, marketing science and product management. [ Missoula Current ]
Take a look at these three little bears climbing in the trees of Bozeman this past week before diving into this week's skim of Montana business news below. Charmed, I’m sure: Missoula online dating start-up aims for $2M from angel investors As online dating takes over traditional in-person dating in what is reportedly a $4 billion industry, Charmed dating app co-founder Taylor Margot says the Missoula start-up aims to raise at least $2 million from angel investors by the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2020. So far, Charmed has raised $50,000 to finance the app that connects friends in real time, as if they’re conversing face-to-face about dating hook-ups, suggestions, referrals, woes and successes. “We view Missoula as the Berkeley of the Rocky Mountain West – which is to say, the best mountain town in the country,” said Margot, 32, who founded Charmed with David Blanchard, 29, and Jack Peterson, 29 – all former UC-Berkeley students and residents. About two-thirds of Charmed’s 15 employees live in Missoula. According to Margot, “We are looking to hire a Chief Marketing Officer and separately a Head of Growth and we will do another hiring push in (fiscal) quarter two of 2020.” On Nov. 7, Charmed will be one of 12 Montana-based growing tech companies to compete in the Early Stage Montana Statewide Showcase in Missoula for a potential $50,000 cash investment. [ Missoula Current] Most popular micropolitan areas for startups has Bozeman listed at the top In a recent post by ShivarWeb , the writers dug into US Census Bureau data to uncover the top 20 places in America that hit a sweet spot between being small and self-contained (a micropolitan) and a popular place to start a new business. Micropolitan areas are populated areas that have too much population to qualify as a rural area, and too few commuting ties to a larger city to qualify as part of a larger metropolitan area. According to the data, there are 536 micropolitan areas in America and of this, the 20 with the most startup activity were further described in the full report here. Bozeman, with a population of 111,876, and at the gateway to Yellowstone National Park along with the largest ski resorts and outdoor opportunities in the United States was the top of the list. Bozeman-based businesses mentioned in the report included Schedulicity , Quiq ( hiring ) and Absaroka Energy Company . You can view the full list of 536 areas here . [ ShivarWeb ] Manufacturing strong across Montana, reports say Multiple reports recently released by Montana State University’s Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) highlight the strength of Montana’s manufacturing sector. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana prepared the 2019 State of Montana Manufacturing report and surveys of Montana manufacturers and MMEC clients, analyzing data from various sources and offering an overview of statewide manufacturing trends. According to the report, manufacturing was equal to tourism and ahead of mining and farming in statewide earnings in 2018. With over 1,000 total manufacturing establishments in Montana last year, the fastest-growing sector was “beverages and tobacco” with the number of establishments in this sector more than doubling over the past year. In addition to the Manufacturing Report, the 2019 Manufacturers’ Survey shed light on manufacturers’ own perspectives on recent industry trends. More than half of respondents reported that their gross sales and production increased over the past year and half said their profits increased. More than half expected their production and gross sales to continue to increase in the next year. According to the report, there are currently 25,100 Montana jobs in manufacturing across the state. This represents 3.7% of the state’s total workforce, up from 3.2% in 2010. [ Daily Interlake ] $730K consultation grant kicks in for rural Montana startups Accelerate Montana, Rural Innovation Initiative (AMRII), formerly the UM Center for Rural Economic Development, recently announced a 5-year, $730,000 grant to aid distressed rural and tribal communities and help them develop sustainable, high-growth “entrepreneurial ecosystems.” The University of Montana earned the multi-year grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. After mentioning Missoula tech startups Submittable ( hiring ) and Advanced Technology Group ( hiring ), Unterschuetz said his office is “really wide open” to consulting with different types of businesses, but AMRII is laser-focused on helping “innovative, unproven business models” that may work alongside typical Main Street businesses, such as coffee klatches or yoga studios – those with proven, more typical business models. [ Missoula Current ] “A really good trajectory:” Stockman Bank opens new $18M southside branch in Missoula Stockman Bank ( hiring ) cut the ribbon on its newest Missoula facility earlier this month, punctuating the city’s growth and its own success in the region. Bob Burns, the bank’s Missoula market president, signed on with Stockman five years ago when the company’s brand had little presence outside the state’s eastern reaches. It’s now one of the fastest growing financial institutions in Missoula with over 65 employees across the city. Over the past few years, Burns has been consistent in highlighting Missoula’s financial growth, along with that across western Montana. The city’s economic upswing has enabled the bank to grow both its presence and its customer base. The new location also helps it reach the Bitterroot Valley, catching the eye of commuters heading home to outlying communities. [ Missoula Current ] Montana-based protein producer Montana Microbial Products tests waters for expansion Montana Microbial Products is participating in a global aquaculture accelerator as part of its ongoing commercial expansion plans aimed at establishing new production plants for its barley-based feed protein. Learn more here . [ Feed Navigator ]  Montana's future job force: State expects 62k annual Montana job openings According to employment projections recently published by the Montana Department of Labor & Industry , if you are looking for work in Montana you’ll have tens of thousands of job openings to choose from over the coming decade. The labor department figures, updated annually and released for 2018 to 2028 in late September, estimate 62,300 Montana job openings each year through 2028. State economists expect 6.2% of those openings to be newly created positions, distinct from positions that come open as workers retire or change fields. Job openings created when workers change jobs within a profession aren’t included in these figures. The state labor department estimates that 46,240 openings a year will be in occupations that require a high school education or less. And, about 38% of projected job openings will be in fields with a median wage of more than $33,900 a year, equivalent to full-time work at $16.62 an hour. On the upper end of the education spectrum, the labor department projects that Montana will have about 131 annual openings for lawyers, a profession paid a median wage of $74,510. [ Montana Standard ] Creative solutions to Missoula's child care crisis Last year the Montana Department of Labor and Industry compared the number of child care providers to the number of children younger than 5 years old in Missoula County and discovered that the potential clientele was more than double the capacity. But as the problem has gotten worse, it has also attracted wide attention – along with some creative solutions. One promising approach organized under the United Way of Missoula County is aimed at building a community-wide connection between parents, caregivers and other organizations serving young children. The Zero to Five initiative was launched by the Headwaters Foundation in December 2018 in four pilot counties: Missoula, Flathead, Silver Bow, and Lewis and Clark. In Missoula, working groups with Zero to Five have been meeting regularly to focus on improving access to high-quality child care and enhancing support for families. Earlier this month, a panel organized by the initiative shared some insights into current barriers. Audience members noted the cost of renting a home or location and compliance with expansive state laws as barriers to entry. Along with discussing the challenges, accolades were given for the companies who have been working to address the problem such as Submittable ( hiring ), who recently opened its new onsite child care facility, and the Bozeman-based startup MyVillage ( hiring ), which helps those who have a passion for working with children a rewarding career path by helping them start and run their own high quality childcare programs out of their homes. MyVillage handles all the headaches involved with marketing, licensing, insurance, billing and a myriad of other small-business duties historically taken on by someone looking to start their own in-home childcare program on top of caring for and teaching children. [ Missoulian ] TechStars startup weekend coming to Billings Rock31 , Billings’ entrepreneur program powered by Big Sky Economic Development , will host TechStars Startup Weekend, on the campus of Montana State University Billings , November 1-3. Startup Weekends connect people with tools and resources and other passionate people to work together to build a strong, successful businesses, according to a news release from organizers. The event is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas, join a team filled with mentors and technical/business experts, create a prototype of an idea, validate the business idea, receive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs, and 54 hours later share the final results with the community. Entrepreneurs can learn how to create a real company, work with the best mentors, investors, co-founders and sponsors, all who are ready to help entrepreneurs with their start-up ideas. [ Billings Gazette ] MSU receives funding for five-year project to educate teachers to fill jobs in rural Montana Montana State University’s Department of Education and its partners have received funding totaling $6.2 million for a program delivered mostly online that is designed to recruit, train and mentor dozens of high-quality educators to work in rural areas of Montana. The funds include a $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education and more than $3.1 million in matching funds and services from nearly a dozen partner organizations. They will be used for a five-year project, "Addressing Rural Recruitment and Retention in Montana," that aims to address the shortage of teachers in rural locations across the state. As part of the project, MSU will educate 18 teachers during the grant’s first year through the university’s online Master of Arts in teaching program. It will then educate 30 teacher residents annually in years two and three, for a total of 78 teachers educated. After students complete the master’s degree and obtain a position in a high-need rural school, they will be supported in the first two years of their careers with carefully designed mentoring, induction and online professional development learning modules for new teachers. [ Montana State University ] Drift: Missoula’s new entertainment complex with 6,000 capacity venue, hotel, restaurants and more Nick Checota, owner of Montana-based concert promoter Logjam Presents , announced the development of the Drift , a new $100 million entertainment complex that will include a 6,000 capacity indoor venue. The Drift will be situated on the banks of the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. In addition to the state-of-the-art venue, the Drift will include a 200-room boutique-style hotel, approximately 10,000 square feet of additional event space, two restaurants, a 400-stall parking facility and a riverfront promenade that runs along Missoula’s river trail system. The project will also include 45 residential condominium units. “We see the Drift as a transformational project for Missoula and its downtown riverfront. The development not only establishes an entertainment civic center on the river, but will serve as an economic engine for all of downtown,” Checota said. The development team plans to work through the design and construction preparation of the project over the next eight months, with the target start of construction during the summer of 2020. [ Logjam Presents ] Bozeman business boom: TowHaul, an economic powerhouse for Belgrade The TowHaul company is a familiar name in the construction and mining industries - but not everyone knows that it's also a big economic powerhouse based in Belgrade. TowHaul manufactures massive towing equipment for mining and the hauling of equipment. Their product is currently in 26 different countries. The company’s founder moved the business to Montana from Canada in the late 1990s. The current CEO, Kim Wild, says they have no regrets. With Wild as CEO, TowHaul has gone from a 16 employee operation to 70. Wild says the company generates close to $21 million a year for the Belgrade economy. [ ABC Fox Montana ] Hemp facility in Libby expects to hire 120 workers About 210 people, most from Lincoln County, have applied for jobs at Isotex Health since the hemp production company closed a deal to buy the old Stinger building in Libby in September. Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jason Cross said almost all the applicants hailed from the area. The facility will produce an isolate for cannabidiol (CBD), a hemp extract increasingly used for its health and medicinal qualities. The plant employs 10 people thus far and that number is expected to eventually rise to 120 workers. Isotex will be housed in the former Stinger Welding building in the Kootenai Business Park. The building, which previously was the manufacturing site for large steel girders, has been empty for several years. Cross said he hopes the company’s presence will spur economic growth in the area. [ Daily Inter Lake ] Whitefish tech startup, Tourbase, competes in a statewide Early Stage Montana showcase Whitefish tech startup, Tourbase , is set to compete with 11 other Montana-based startups in the second-annual Early Stage Montana Statewide Showcase on November 7 in Missoula. Early Stage Montana is a nonprofit that provides training and mentorship to accelerate the growth of emerging Montana technology business, according to a press release about the contest from the Montana Technology Acceleration Association. This is the second year the association has hosted a competition for Montana-based tech startups to pitch business ideas and vie for $50,000 in funding. Tourbase in Whitefish is a “cloud-based software for turnkey reservations, transactions and guest communications for tour managers, operators and outfitters.” They are the only Flathead Valley representative in the competition, which also features tech startups from Bozeman, Billings, Livingston and Missoula. Find the complete list of participants here . [ Daily Inter Lake ]
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