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Thanksgiving came. Thanksgiving went. You ate all the food. Maybe shopped some sales. And hopefully took in a few of the recent Montana sunsets (#nofilter). Now, go ahead and take a minute to get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below... Billings Clinic to build 97,000-square-foot ambulatory center in Bozeman Billings Clinic ( hiring ) officials recently announced plans to build a 97,000-square-foot ambulatory center in Bozeman that will include a multi-specialty physician group practice, urgent care and an outpatient surgical center. The center is estimated to cost from $35 million to $40 million and will be built on 54 acres adjacent to I-90 near the 19th Street exit. Billings Clinic expects to break ground in 2019 and open the center within three years, Billings Clinic CEO Randy Gibb said last week. A two-year feasibility study was conducted to determine the projected needs and growth of the Gallatin County community. "Bozeman is the fastest growing community in the state, at about 10 percent a year," Gibb said. "When we looked at the feasibility study, eventually there won't be enough providers in Bozeman to keep up with the growth." He estimated that the ambulatory center will add 125 to 150 Montana jobs in the Bozeman area, just within the first phase. [ Billings Gazette ] Missoula’s LumenAd and Consumer Direct share $450K state grant for 63 new Montana jobs The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund at the Department of Commerce awarded a state grant of $450,000 this week to support two MIssoula companies, LumenAd ( hiring ) and Consumer Direct ( hiring ). The grant funds will be used for expansion and to add dozens of new Montana jobs in the local market. Bitterroot Tool and Machine , based in Hamilton, also received a $50,000 grant to create 10 new Montana jobs. “Montana’s economy continues to grow when public and private sectors come together to create jobs and provide training for workers,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement provided with the announcement. The two latest grants boost an already aggressive push to grow local jobs, and the Big Sky grants have been central to that effort. Consumer Direct, a human services agency that provides management solutions for long-term care, received $255,300 in the latest round of grants to support 37 new jobs over the next two years. CEO Ben Bledsoe said the program is integral to his company’s growth. LumenAd founder and CEO Ryan Hansen echoed that sentiment. His company received $195,000 in the latest round of grants to support the creation of 26 new Montana jobs over the next year. [ Missoula Current ] Co-working space, Basecamp Coworking, opens in Whitefish Co-working spaces have popped up all across the United States - places with rentable desk space, conference rooms, and a community feel. And, the flathead valley is no exception. Recently, Drew Fortner, owner of Alaska Shore Tours opened a co-working space in Whitefish for freelancers, remote employees and others who work from home called Basecamp Coworking . There are several tiers of membership - first, a “hot desk” open seating for daily users, visitors, and people who just want to drop in with a laptop. The next tier is the dedicated desks, where for $325 a month people can leave equipment and monitors behind and use a lockable filing cabinet. The top tier is the private office choice. With 24/7 building access, furnishings and a locking office, they also receive discounted memberships for additional hot desk members and discounted guest passes. Building a community is one of the main goals at Basecamp, Fortner said. They plan on hosting events and mixers so their clients can get to know one another if they so desire. [ Flathead Beacon ] Accelerated Startups program helps Helena-area entrepreneurs hit the ground running The Montana Business Assistance Connection in Helena recently honored the first three graduates of its Accelerated Startups pilot project. The Accelerated Startups program is a collaborative effort between the business assistance connection and Edge Marketing and Design to provide resources, accountability and mentorship to new startups in the Helena area. The participants started the six-month program in the spring and completed the program last week. Graduates of the program's initial run are Montana Bones clothing company, Caffeic Coffee Roasters and Spy High Mounts , which sells a patented trail camera mounting system. When forming the curriculum, program founders wanted to focus on things startups typically have to figure out on their own. Pricing, value proposition, identifying customer base and marketing are areas of focus. According to Dustin Stewart, owner and digital product manager for Edge Marketing and Design, “We wanted to connect these startups with community resources and expertise to help fight through these hurdles.” Stewart said they will continue to experiment and adapt the program to the applicants in the future. The next session of Accelerated Startups is scheduled to take place in April of 2019. Applications for the program will be accepted December 1, 2018 through January 15, 2019. [ Independent Record ] Missoula women launch retreat business to connect, empower female entrepreneurs Two University of Montana Blackstone Launchpad employees launched a retreat business this week that focuses on building women’s entrepreneurial skills while providing a unique Montana experience at local lodges and destinations. According to co-founder Morgan Slemberger, Peak Retreats is similar to a conference, but participants will have more one-on-one discussions with consultants and be able to relax and recharge through skiing, snowshoeing and spa treatments. The retreat takes a personal approach, Strong said, with only 10 spots available for the first event. The founders hope through self-funding that the business can host three to four retreats each year for women from anywhere in the country. The inaugural retreat is set for January 23-25 at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish and will feature keynote speakers discussing the challenges participants face in their businesses. [ Missoula Current ] Bozeman photonics company Bridger Photonics to receive $100K EPA grant It was recently announced that Bozeman-based Bridger Photonics ( hiring ) will receive a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The grant will be used to fund the development of technology that will facilitate the discovery of leaks in oil and gas wells. The $100,000 to Bridger Photonics is part of $1.7 million that the EPA is awarding to 16 small businesses. The award comes from the EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program , which encourages the development of technologies that support EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. According to Senator Steve Daines, “The technology being developed at Bridger Photonics will help oil and gas wells be more efficient while also better protecting the environment. I’m glad that the EPA recognized the good work being done at this Montana business and awarded them this funding.” [ KBZK ] Up to 350 Montana jobs headed to Butte with FCR’s new call center facility coming Butte could see as many as 350 new jobs by spring. That's because FCR , an Oregon-based provider of outsourced call center and other business services, announced earlier this month that it will open a new office in the Mining City (Butte) in early 2019. The company plans to offer customer service and technical support jobs answering telephone calls, emails, text messages, and social media communications for a variety of companies and industries. FCR will also hire for supervisory and management positions. Stephanie Sorini, executive director of the Butte Chamber of Commerce , said the new jobs could have broad economic effects. In addition to operating six contact centers in Oregon, FCR opened a center in Great Falls in 2017. In Great Falls, the company currently employs 250 people (and is hiring ) and plans to expand the Great Falls facility next year. FCR did not announce where specifically its Butte office will be located, but Sorini said the company has narrowed its choice down to two locations. [ Montana Standard ] $3.5 million FedEx facility expansion underway west of Butte Construction is underway on a $3.5 million project to expand Butte’s FedEx Freight facility in the Montana Connections Business Development Park west of Butte. In September, board members for Butte’s Tax Increment Financing Industrial District awarded the project a $200,000 grant. The business development park resides within the district overseen by the board, which uses tax increment financing to fund infrastructure-related projects. FedEx’s landlord VEREIT , a real estate company based in Phoenix, is financing the project, but FedEx will be the beneficiary of the grant through reduced lease rates. The FedEx facility employs around 95 people. But according to FedEx’s grant application, the expansion could make room for 31 more Montana jobs over the next 15 years. The expansion is expected to be completed in 2019. [ Montana Standard ] Wyoming-based coal company Cloud Peak considers selling amid economic challenges Cloud Peak Energy , one of the biggest miners of Montana coal, will consider selling the company among other options as it deals with continuing economic challenges. According to Colin Marshall, president and CEO of Cloud Peak, “While our board is undertaking this strategic review, Cloud Peak Energy remains focused on executing against our operational and financial priorities. We will continue to adjust our business to the structural changes in the U.S. coal industry and to position our company for future growth opportunities.” Cloud Peak mines were expected to produce up to 51 million tons of coal this year, but had contracts for 35 million tons in 2019 and 30 million the year after. [ Billings Gazette ] Bozeman company Barnard Construction awarded border wall contract Bozeman-headquartered Barnard Construction ( hiring ) has been awarded a contract to build part of the wall on the U.S-Mexico border. The $172 million contract was awarded by U.S Customs and Border Protection and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Barnard Construction is tasked with constructing 32 miles of primary pedestrian replacement wall. The wall will run along the U.S Border Patrol’s Yuma and Tucson sectors. Construction is scheduled to begin April 2019. [ KBZK ] Montana Craft Malt moves toward completion of its $15-million facility west of Butte Montana Craft Malt (MCM) plans to open its $15-million facility next year with around 15 employees and produce 10,000 tons of malt per year from Montana-grown barley. The facility, which is one of many buildings in the Montana Connections Business Development Park west of Butte, will be Montana’s first mid-size barley-malting facilities. MCM broke ground last spring, and construction on the 30,000-square-foot facility is expected to wrap up in March of 2019. The company is already consulting with potential customers — craft brewers and distillers — according to the company’s new president Jennifer O’Brien, who took over the helm when her father passed away in May. [ Montana Standard ] Pattern’s Stillwater Wind comes to life in Montana Pattern Energy Group 2 LP (Pattern Development) has completed construction and is now operating its 79.75 MW Stillwater Wind facility in Stillwater County, approximately 11 miles north of Reed Point, Montana (a town located between Big Timber and Billings). According to Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Development, “Our first wind power facility in Montana is now generating numerous benefits for the state, including strong Montana jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue, while producing enough clean energy to power 23,000 homes each year without any emissions. We’re working on our second wind project in Montana, and we look forward to creating more jobs and economic benefits from the state’s vast natural wind resources.” Over the first 25 years of the facility’s operational life, it is expected to produce more than $18 million in tax revenue. The local county will also receive impact fees over the first three years, in addition to royalty payments for participating landowners. [ North America Wind Power ] More than $3 million in tax credits approved for Havre’s Oakwood Village acquisition and rehabilitation Havre’s Oakwood Village will be one of five projects in Montana receiving Federal Tax Credits to develop affordable housing. According to a recent press release, Affiliated Developers Inc. will receive $3,881,250 in tax credits for the acquisition and rehabilitation of Oakwood Village. It added that the total project investment of $7,716,755 in Oakwood Village will result in 100 new Montana jobs, creating $4.5 million in wages and salaries. "This is a win-win for Montana," Bullock said in a press release. "Montana families thrive when they have a safe and affordable place to call home, and our economy continues to grow when we are able to house a productive workforce, while creating hundreds of construction jobs in local communities throughout the state." [ Havre Daily News ] Where the Montana jobs are: Mapping Montana’s economic landscape In the first installment of the Long Streets reporting project, comprehensive county-level job data available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis was analyzed to generate a broad overview of the jobs landscape in Montana. The big picture: Montana has 676,000 jobs. The largest share of Montanans work jobs in the service sector, a broad category of employment that includes minimum-wage earners as well as software engineers and other trained professionals. Though the state economy is still anchored to its natural resources, farming, mining, and logging make up less than 10 percent of all jobs. Additionally, Montana’s workforce breakdown by sector mirrors the national economy, with some notable exceptions: Montana has more farmers (4.6 percent of the state workforce versus 1.3 percent nationally) — and fewer manufacturing jobs (3.7 percent of the Montana workforce versus 6.8 percent nationwide). And as no surprise, Montana’s jobs are clustered around several urban centers across the state (i.e. Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena and Butte). Those clusters include 72 percent of Montana’s jobs and 68 percent of its people. Job growth is even more concentrated. Five counties — around Bozeman, Billings, Missoula, Kalispell and Helena — have accounted for 70 percent of net job creation between 2001 and 2016. Lastly, this installment also touches on the earnings of these Montana jobs noting service-sector jobs, while plentiful, often pay low. On the other hand, transportation, government and manufacturing may pay well, but aren’t producing many new jobs. The sweet spot lies in industries that are growing and pay well - which both the mining and health care sectors have stood out in recent years. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ] Bozeman commissioners approve WinCo Foods Earlier this week Bozeman commissioners said the site plans for a 75,000-square-foot grocery store fit into city rules and future projects in their unanimous vote to approve WinCo Foods’ plans for north Bozeman. “We want to be a retail trade center,” Commissioner Jeff Krauss said. WinCo is a largely employee-owned supermarket based in Boise, Idaho, and plans to build in Gallatin Center development off North 19th. The next step for WinCo is to apply for a city building permit. [ KBZK ] Amid worker shortage, Helena employers get creative to attract and retain good employees A lack of workers in Helena and across the state is forcing business owners to make some important staffing decisions. From deciding how to better compensate employees to weighing which jobs are no longer necessary in the current economic climate, employers are facing major changes. They are also getting more creative with their recruitment and retention efforts to introduce employees to the workforce and keep them there. Businesses are searching for more versatile workers, who can cross-train or obtain training certifications that expand their job duties. Additionally, the department of labor works with businesses across the state to offer on-the-job training. As part of the apprenticeship program, workers who aren’t necessarily qualified for a job can be hired and trained for the position. About 90 percent of people who go through the apprenticeship program stay in Montana. The Helena Building Industry Association ,   Casteel Construction , and St. Peter’s Health ( hiring ) are all examples of Helena area employers exercising alternative ways to attract and retain employees. [ Independent Record ] Montana Made: Great Falls GrizzBiz students mean business In Great Falls, seventh and eighth grade students are learning what it takes to succeed in business through a Great Falls program, GrizzBiz . Kids with an interest in the program fill out an application, go through an interview process and, if selected, they’re involved with everything from ordering supplies and marketing to bookkeeping and production, which includes laser engraving. Depending on how much they produce and sell, they even draw a paycheck. GrizzBiz is a year-round venture and is in its ninth year. About 30 kids participate in the summer program which includes a booth at the Farmer’s Market and is highlighted by the Montana State Fair where the students engrave the winning plaques. During the school year, about 15 kids are employed. GrizzBiz has also recently expanded, starting a similar program at East Middle School in Great Falls called Ram Enterprises. [ KPAX ]
Skim while telling everyone, "I voted."  Montana companies named among Outside Magazine's 50 best places to work Two Montana companies were recently named among the top 50 best places to work by Outside Magazine and a third received honorable mention. Coming in on the list at number 22, the Helena-based conservation organization, Montana Wilderness Association (MWA), noted its high average salary (more than $50,000), ample PTO and holiday time, pet friendly office and regular outdoor meetings. According to the organization, “You start your career at MWA with a total of 35 paid days off every year. Throw in the three-day staff backpacking trip, which counts as ‘work,’ and a paid three-month sabbatical after five years, and you’d be fair to wonder how we get so much done.” We should also mention that MWA is hiring , too. Right behind them on the list at number 23 is Bozeman-based software company Foundant Technologies (also hiring ). Perks at Foundant include unlimited PTO, mountain bike Mondays and healthy office lunches. According to the Foundant team, “Everyone latches on to our unlimited vacation, but that’s pretty common. We went ahead and implemented a ‘paid’ paid vacation. Not only do our team members get PTO, if they take two consecutive days off, they’re eligible for a $1,000 bonus to use toward that vacation. After five years, that bumps up to $1,500 annually. We encourage truly unplugging and getting away.” The list didn’t stop at 50 companies. It also included several honorable mentions like Bozeman-based environmental nonprofit Greater Yellowstone Coalition ( hiring ). [ Outside Magazine ] Bozeman-based Zoot Enterprises wins award for early childhood excellence in program administration Zoot Enterprises ( hiring ), a Bozeman-based fintech company providing advanced origination, acquisition, and decision management solutions to a global client base, is pleased to announce that it has received the Early Childhood Excellence in Program Administration award from the Montana Association for the Education of Young Children . The award recognizes the efforts of the Zoot Adventure Learning Academy (ZALA), which was opened in April to provide childcare for Zoot employees with children aged 0-5. “We created ZALA because we care about our employees and wanted to create an environment where our employees’ families can thrive,” said Rebekah Nelson, President of ZALA. “The positive reception that we have received from the community, our employees and the Montana Association for the Education of Young Children are indicators that we are on the right track.” The Montana Association for the Education of Young Children is an organization of childcare and early childhood education professionals working on local, state and national issues that affect children and families. They fight for the betterment of future generations through advocacy and by supporting, educating, and representing early childhood professionals. “We are proud of Zoot’s amazing work in the community and their attention to the early childhood needs of their community and business,” said Rhiannon Shook, Executive Director of the program. “We feel that they exemplify the need for businesses to provide childcare to their employees.” She continued, “We also feel that they really have been intentional about thinking of the needs of our youngest citizens.” [ Zoot ] The New Pioneers: Entrepreneurship is making a mark in Montana Big Sky Country is breeding entrepreneurs, and confirmation comes from three respected national rankings. ValuePenguin , the finance research website, released a report in July that identified Montana as the nation's top state for small business. Montana was No. 1 for employees working in small businesses, No. 4 for small business survival rate and No. 24 for small business "birth rate." Likewise, a September study by WalletHub , the personal finance website, named Montana the fourth-best state for launching a small business. And finally, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation , from 2013 through 2016, ranked Montana as the No. 1 small state for entrepreneurship. State officials say that Montana's fertile entrepreneurial landscape has been nurtured by a low tax environment and a long-term strategy to energize the state's economy from the ground up. "For a long time. we have focused on the ecosystem that we have in the state rather than providing a high level of incentives to move companies here," says Ken Fichtler, chief business development officer at the Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development . "That's really starting to pay dividends for us. We've been good at creating an organic business community." [ Site Selection ] Montana Business Assistance Connection to host a celebration of entrepreneurship and startups The Montana Business Assistance Connection (MBAC) invites the public to an evening celebrating the growing entrepreneurship in Helena, culminating with demos from three new Helena startups on Thursday, November 15 from 5-8pm at The Holter Museum of Art. Though Helena may have a reputation as a government center, it has a strong, growing business community. It is around this idea that the MBAC created a new program to support startup businesses in the Helena area named “Accelerated Startups.” The program is designed to provide resources, accountability, and mentorship to new startups. The Accelerated Startups program accepted its first class of entrepreneurs in Spring 2018. The six-month program will culminate with a demo night for these entrepreneurs the week of November 12. This night will be a celebration of Helena’s previous business success stories as well as an opportunity for the Accelerated Startups graduates to introduce their businesses to the community. Learn more about the upcoming event here . [ MBAC ] Entrepreneurial programs rev up a local economy With a population density of only 6.5 people per square mile, Montana is not a place most people think of when they want to start businesses. But at the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship (JJCBE) at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, they have been working to change that. With a goal of making the school an engine that creates such a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem so students do not have to leave the state to find work once they graduate. With a dedicated minor and certificate in entrepreneurship, as well as officially becoming the home to Blackstone LaunchPad , the university’s business incubator; 406 Labs , its business accelerator; and a regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the county, the school has also adopted a new approach in its curriculum that has created more opportunities for students to collaborate with business leaders, build relationships with the community, and connect with local entrepreneurs. This model of entrepreneurship in the classroom, on campus, in the community and through competition is shaping the experiences for the students and accelerating the frequency of engagement among faculty, students, and local business leaders. Additionally, it also has helped the community address one of its greatest economic challenges: its remote location. [ Biz Ed ] Forestry experts: Industry rebounding; natural resources draw visitors and spending to Montana According to a panel of experts convened by the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce last week, the forest products industry in Montana is on the rebound due to tariffs and increased timber harvest limits put in place after a disastrous wildfire season. Recently, researchers at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana compiled a report on the state of Montana’s forestry industry . For many years, Montana’s largest manufacturing sector employer was the wood products industry, but recently that was surpassed by the fabricated metals industry. In 2000, wood and paper jobs were 28 percent of the state’s manufacturing employment and 31 percent of labor income, according to study authors Dorian Smith, Steven Hayes and Kate Marcille. In 2016, only 13 percent of jobs and 11 percent of income was generated by wood products manufacturing. In late 2009, for example, the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. in Frenchtown, which processed logs for various products, put 417 people out of work. However, the study's authors said Montana’s wood products industry is on the rise again due to a commitment from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to address forest health and increase timber harvest levels. Companies like Idaho Forest Group ( hiring ), which owns and operates a sawmill in St. Regis (west of Missoula), are planning on doubling capacity. And, SmartLam , a company that manufactures cross-laminated timber products in Columbia Falls, plans to add 75 Montana jobs in 2019. [ Missoulian ] Bozeman entrepreneur helps launch app to train workers displaced by technology A Bozeman entrepreneur has launched NextStep Interactive , a company that will use a mobile phone app to help train workers displaced by artificial intelligence and automation for careers in the growing health care industry. Removing the barrier of having to take classes in person, users can complete coursework on the app to become certified in various entry-level jobs, like a home health aid or medical assistant, NextStep CEO Chris Hedrick said. Available for a one-time $20 fee, the app will ask users questions to filter them into their best role. The company will also help set up internships and hands-on training opportunities for users. The company is in its early stages of operation right now, having just secured $3 million in seed funding. The round was led by JAZZ Venture Partners , with participation from Pioneer Square Labs , Learn Capital’s LearnStart fund and Springrock Ventures . Montana-based Frontier Angel Fund also provided a small amount of funding. NextStep is being piloted right now in Washington, but in two years, Hedrick said he hopes to see the app available across the country. As the country’s population ages, demand for entry-level jobs in health care will continue to increase. [ Bozeman Chronicle ] Perficient buys Bozeman-based digital marketing firm Elixiter Missouri-based information technology consulting firm Perficient Inc. announced last week it had acquired Bozeman-based marketing consultancy Elixiter, Inc. The acquisition of Elixiter will add 40 people to Perficient's workforce, including Elixiter President and Founder Andrew Hull, who will join Perficient in a "key leadership role." [ Saint Louis Post-Dispatch ] Whitefish will host session on Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor industry Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates more than $7.1 billion in annual consumer spending and employs more than 71,000 people each year, making it the second largest sector of the state’s economy, according to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. In response to those statistics, the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation will host the Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit December 4-5 at Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish. Summit organizers want to bring together leaders, community members, recreation and conservation groups from Montana and the Greater Crown of the Continent, including Alberta and British Columbia, to provide a platform to discuss promoting and strengthening outdoor recreation and the economic activity it supports. Also, the Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit is incorporating a competitive funding award program supporting Montana organizations with on-the-ground conservation and recreation projects. Six finalists will be selected and spotlighted at the summit, where attendees will vote on two winning projects. Each winning organization will walk away with $5,000 to support its important work. Find more information here . [ Daily Inter Lake ] Students attend 25th “Jobs for Montana’s Graduates” conference in Helena Students across the Big Sky state were in Helena last week for the Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) 25th annual LEAD Conference. 250 students from 34 Montana schools took part in the conference, which helps students meet with business leaders, and attended workshops to expand their leadership skills. JMG works to provide students the opportunity to gain important skills needed for career readiness such as critical thinking and decision making skills. Erica Swanson, State Director of Jobs for Montana’s Graduates, said she’s thrilled to see so many schools, including four middle schools, attend this year’s conference. Governor Steve Bullock recognized the students at the event for their commitment to academic excellence and leadership development. “Jobs for Montana’s Graduates helps ensure every Montana student, no matter their background, strengths, or learning styles, know that their success matters and that high school graduation is within their reach,” Governor Bullock said. “I am humbled to spend time with the students who have made this commitment in their education and in their futures.” JMG is funded by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to support students in connecting with their communities by providing them with leadership development, social and civic responsibility and career awareness. [ KTVH ] Bozeman named in Matador’s list of 25 coolest towns in America Bozeman was recently named by Matador as one of the 25 coolest towns in America. In a collection of towns with less than 100,000 in population, Matador shared its collection of towns where people can have the weekend of their lives — and maybe even stay for good. Citing the stunning mountain ranges, beautiful landscapes, quick and easy access to Yellowstone National Park , Big Sky Resort and Bridger Bowl along with the world class fly fishing and plethora of other outdoor activities, it was easy to see how Bozeman made the list. Coupled with Montana State University the Museum of the Rockies and vast dining options, the report notes that Bozeman’s charms have made it one of the fastest growing towns in the region. [ Matador Network ] Hutterite colony sees a future of agriculture and manufacturing, aided by the Internet Hutterites have farmed and raised livestock on the Northern Plains of North and South Dakota, Eastern Montana and southwestern Canada for more than 100 years. But agriculture hasn't sustained them like it used to. Therefore, leaders at the Golden Valley Colony near Ryegate, Montana, decided to branch out of agriculture by launching a steel fabrication operation. The Colony brought a state-of-the-art steel fabrication and production facility to their agricultural operation, which runs on technology and practices that were pioneered, in some cases, generations ago. This can present a myriad of issues. As operations at Valley Steel are underway, workers have been churning out steel trim and siding for barns, homes and warehouses for nearly a year now. It hasn't been easy and managers have had to troubleshoot at nearly every turn, including bringing the Internet to the Colony for the first time ever in order to electronically correspond with contractors and customers. Golden Valley is the only Hutterite colony in Montana to branch outside agriculture with its steel fabrication plant, but a handful of colonies in North and South Dakota have tried it and found success. [ Billings Gazette ] Butte bio-pesticide manufacturer LAM International expands production capacity LAM International , a company that manufactures bio-pesticides at its Parkmont facility near MSE south of Butte, will expand its production capacity thanks to the rollout of a new product. Maryland-based Certis USA, which purchased the local manufacturer in June 2017, recently announced the release of a new bio-pesticide called BoteGHA. According to a news release from Certis, LAM International “has embarked on a major investment to expand its solid fermentation production capacity.” Felicia Gillham, a spokesperson for Certis, said in an email message that “once completed, the production process will be highly automated.” However, there could still be potential new Montana job openings for a few operator positions. [ Montana Standard ]
ClassOne Technology of Kalispell extends business to Japan, plans for major expansion in Kalispell ClassOne (currently hiring ) opened up an operations arm in Kalispell six years ago, refurbishing Semitool processor machines that create wafers, which hold microchips and go into all types of technology. The company deals in electroplating equipment, electroplating tools, spray solvent tools, and spin rinse dryers. ClassOne Technology started in Atlanta, Georgia, before getting its bearings with a branch in Montana. And now, it is on the precipice of a $100 million market for its equipment and plans to double the size of its operations footprint in Kalispell - with plants to eventually build a headquarters in the Flathead Valley. The first three years in the Montana location were tough, said president Kevin Witt. But once they found that their ClassOne products were accepted in the marketplace, business has grown 50 to100 percent every year. “The refurbishments are popular, and we’ve had hyper-growth in new products.” [ Flathead Valley ] Sawmill District in Missoula unveils plans for tech and innovation campus; room for 1,000 new Montana jobs With Missoula’s tech scene heating up, the Old Sawmill District and its team of developers unveiled their plans for a tech and innovation campus, one large enough to support more than 1,000 workers when the build is complete. According to project developer Ed Wetherbee, “There’s a great need for companies to co-locate, and for companies to feel like they’re in a great work environment that not only is great for efficiency and effectiveness but is also great to recruit and retain employees.” The first structure for the campus is already permitted and ready for construction, which will occur with the acquisition of a tenant. When fully built, the campus will offer up to 200,000 square feet of commercial space. It will also serve as a showpiece for Missoula’s burgeoning tech industry and could play a role in recruiting top talent to the city. [ Missoula Current ] Montana Ag Network: Dillon sheep ranch finds success in sheep-to-shelf clothing A Montana sheep ranch that wanted to find an alternative to getting commodity pricing for its wool created Duckworth , the world’s only source-verified, single-origin Merino wool apparel company. “We were tired of getting commodity pricing for our wool. We were really putting in the extra work to make it a little bit better than the general commodity,” said Evan Helle of Helle Livestock in Dillon. All the wool used in Duckworth products is 100 percent Made-in-the-USA from their very own Helle Rambouillet Merino flock and certified Duckworth Wool Cooperative growers. Schnee’s in downtown Bozeman is just one of the many locations in the United States and the world where you can find Duckworth clothing apparel. Owner John Edwards says Duckworth’s Sheep-to-Shelf concept is resonating well with customers. “People seem to really appreciate the quality of the Duckworth products and the fact that it’s all made in America. We’ve been able to tap into the Helle resource of some premium Merino fiber and people seem to really respond well to it.” For wool producers like the Helles, it’s also rewarding to know their Duckworth brand is helping to create jobs and keep the U.S. textile industry alive. [ KTVH ] Bozeman makes list of 2018 10 best places to raise a family Livability just ranked Bozeman in the top 10 best places to raise a family. According to Livability, Bozeman is more like a giant outdoor playground than a city. And with an average commute time of less than 15 minutes, there’s more time to spend together as a family skiing, fishing, rafting, golfing and hiking. The report continues to share that Bozeman is home to Montana State University , which is the city’s largest employer, as well as a burgeoning tech scene . And on top of that, the population is still under 50,000 people, so you can easily get to know your neighbors and feel a genuine sense of community in Bozeman. With rankings of Bozeman’s top kid-friendly restaurants, weekend activities and coolest indoor playgrounds, Livability shows why Bozeman made the top ten list. [ ] Local Great Falls middle school receives $30,000 entrepreneurship grant Last week, East Middle School in Great Falls became the first in the nation to receive a 30,000 dollar grant from AT&T to start a new student-run entrepreneurship program called RAM Enterprises . The grant allows students to learn entrepreneurship through the school year and summer. It gives kids the chance to learn everything from business aspects to incorporating technology with creating products to financial literacy and teamwork. "The ability to begin their own businesses, to make some money, but then to also learn some of the soft skills like how to deal with customers and take orders. It's exciting to see because looking around this room today, you know that tomorrow's leaders are being trained right here in our public schools today," said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The students in RAM range from 12 to 14 years old. They'll run the entire program from hiring to marketing while learning trade skills like woodwork, engraving, and ceramics. The products they make will be sold to customers at local events. [ ABCFox ] City of Bozeman releases podcast series focusing on local businesses The City of Bozeman launched its own podcast – called “Micromegas” this week. The podcast, a continuing series created by the city’s Office of Economic Development, will focus on business success stories in Bozeman’s rapidly-growing community. The title “Micromegas” refers to the idea that “big things come in small packages,” a nod to how small business entrepreneurs can change an entire community. Episode One, entitled “Meeting Mo’Bowls” looks at local entrepreneurial team, brothers Jesse and Tyler Collins, who run the Mo’Bowls mac and cheese food truck and brick-and-mortar restaurant. Bozeman Economic Development Director Brit Fontenot says although a podcast might seem like an unconventional way of approaching citizens, it’s proved to be an innovative outreach tool for other groups. An official introduction to the podcast can be found here . [ ABCFox Montana ] Soiree at the Wilma: Missoula’s ATG celebrates deal with Cognizant, projected job growth Employees of Advanced Technology Group ( hiring ) welcomed Cognizant , their new corporate owner, to Missoula last week to celebrate the future - one that could see the local workforce swell to four figures and expand the company’s partnership with the University of Montana. Cognizant, a global consulting firm, announced last month that it had purchased ATG. The deal closed last week and was punctuated by Tuesday’s soiree at the Wilma in downtown Missoula. “We did a lot of good, quality work together and believe this is the right thing to do for both companies,” said Ronan O’Flaherty, head of strategy for enterprise application services at Cognizant. “Now the fun starts. This is the starting point of something we think will be really great.” Cognizant ranks 9th on Forbes’ list of fastest-growing technology companies and 196th on the Fortune 500. The firm has retained ATG’s brand, listing it only as a Cognizant company. With the acquisition complete, corporate leaders are already evaluating the future, including the idea that ATG’s workforce in Missoula could expand far beyond its 130 employees. [ Missoula Current ] Bozeman, Billings, Missoula competing for USDA's new research headquarters The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Monday that it’s fielding offers from more than 130 parties to host two of its research center headquarters, and Montana State University is one of those potential locations. The USDA announced in August its intention to relocate its headquarters for the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) from its current home in D.C. MSU threw its hat in the ring earlier this month. The university’s 42-acre Innovation Campus , which is spearheading the proposal, is vacant and open for development. But now it’s up against 135 other offers from across 35 states – and Montana itself has three proposals on the table. Billings’ Big Sky Economic Development and the Missoula Economic Partnership are also hoping to score the new headquarters. The move would bring 620 USDA employees from the ERS and NIFA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to the future location. The next steps are likely to include a formal proposal to the USDA. The department says its goal is to make a decision and finish negotiations on the new headquarters by the end of 2019. [ ABCFox Montana ] Turning military inventions into golden opportunities Military innovations are often the perfect launching pad for commercial businesses far beyond military base fences. For that reason, Nicholas Ripplinger, founder of Dayton’s Battle Sight Technologies , doesn’t see TechLink as just another program. Neither does Timothy Shaw, president and chief operating officer of Riverside’s GlobalFlyte Inc. TechLink, based at Montana State University in Bozeman, calls itself the U.S. military’s sole national “partnership intermediary” for technology transfers to private companies. And, it helped Ripplinger, Shaw and their companies get launched. The organization does the same for dozens of companies across the nation. In 2018 alone, TechLink facilitated 91 technology license agreements across the Department of Defense (DoD) , including 48 from the Air Force, 28 from the Navy and 15 from the Army. [ Dayton Daily News ] Missoula Economic Partnership, UM and local government set course on collaboration Grant Kier, the new executive director of the Missoula Economic Partnership (MEP), predicts that Missoula’s thriving economy will have generational impacts leading to stronger ties between the city’s premier institutions. At an event this past week, Kier said, “If economic development is anything, it’s about making sure the children that grow up in our town, and in our state, have every opportunity to take their skills and build on that. If they’re willing to put their energy and their efforts to work in our community to make it stronger, we as a community will give them a platform to succeed.” Discussions at the biannual event with MEPs partners and investors signaled a shift toward a stronger collaboration between MEP, the University of Montana (UM) and local government, including the city and the county. With joint master planning taking place between the city and UM, and technical assistance provided by a number of organizations, including Blackstone LaunchPad , the Montana Small Business Development Center , the Montana World Trade Center , and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, among others, the planned “innovation corridor” across Missoula is beginning to take shape. According to UM President Seth Bodnar, he is excited about what’s been done and where the community is headed. “We have more than 20 exciting Missoula startups spanning life sciences, education technology, drones and software-to-service companies that are housed at MonTECH that need a good place to get their business started, and the university provides that,” said Bodnar. Bodnar and Kier cited a number of recent and now-familiar successes, including the arrival of 4Cast and ClassPass , which recently announced plans to grow its local workforce to 175 employees in downtown Missoula. But Advanced Technology Group , recently acquired by Cognizant, took center stage for its number of potential new Montana jobs, its Missoula roots and its growing ties to the university. The company recently hired its 100th UM graduate – a trajectory that exemplifies Missoula’s future, Kier said. [ Missoula Current ] Hard-rock mining in Montana digs up $2.7B a year, report says Montana’s hard-rock mining industry supports more than 12,300 permanent, year-round Montana jobs with average annual earnings of $86,030, according to a recent report that was discussed by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at Great Falls College – MSU earlier this week. The 14-page BBER study, sponsored by the Montana Mining Association , found that mining produces $2.7 billion in economic output statewide and almost $200 million in state government revenue annually. “The Montana hard-rock mining industry is an important source of prosperity and value to Montana households, businesses and governments,” the report states. “Not just in the mining community but throughout the state.” The BBER report also studied the economic impacts of three new mining projects now in the permitting process. [ Great Falls Tribune ]
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