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With the July 4 holiday and lots of outdoor play (bikes, hikes and rope swings at Wade Lake - #nofilter), it's been a few weeks since we've landed in your inbox! Get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below. 2019 best tech startups in Missoula and Bozeman The Tech Tribune staff has compiled the very best tech startups in Missoula, Montana. The staff considered several factors including but not limited to: revenue potential, leadership team, brand/product traction and competitive landscape. Additionally, all companies must be independent (un-acquired), privately owned, at most 10 years old, and have received at least one round of funding to qualify. Tech startups making the list included OnX ( hiring ), Submittable ( hiring ), TOMIS ( hiring ), and The Audience Awards . The Tech Tribune staff also compiled a list of the very best tech startups in Bozeman, too. You can find the full list of top Bozeman startups here . [ Tech Tribune ]  Billings Clinic clears first step to build medical campus in Bozeman Billings Clinic ( hiring ) is one step closer to building in Bozeman. The health care provider asked for an amendment to the city’s growth policy for the 54 acres it owns west of Costco, and the Bozeman City Commission voted 5-0 to change the requirements to build a medical campus and new businesses on the land. Sarah Rosenberg, an associate planner with the city, told commissioners it was the first of several steps Billings Clinic needs to clear before carrying out its plans. She said city planning staff recommended approving the request because it would encourage a “broad and robust activity level” in the area. Next, Billings Clinic will need city officials to annex the land into city limits and rezone the property. Billings Clinic bought the property in 2016 with plans to open an ambulatory center and provide outpatient services. The campus will be 97,000 square feet and cost about $40 million. Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation , said further development is possible. “That is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long-term presence here,” Duncan said. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ] Cognizant, UM partner to graduate 28 students for jobs in Missoula’s high-paying tech industry For the second time this year, a class of students shook hands with the president of the University of Montana and their future boss at Cognizant-ATG ( hiring ) to celebrate their graduation from a novel program that positions them for high-paying jobs within the company. The class of 28 students graduated on Thursday night after completing a 12-week program designed to train them in the technology and business practices employed by the Fortune 200 company. Most indicated a desire to stay in Missoula at the company’s new Solutions Center in the Old Sawmill District. All will begin work in early July, regardless of where they land. The program, known as All-In-Missoula, or AIM, traces its roots back to when ATG was a small but growing tech firm with a significant local presence. Facing rapid growth, the company sought new ways to train the workforce needed to fill its Missoula jobs. It did so by partnering with UM, turning out two or three students at a time. When Cognizant acquired ATG last year, it also saw value in the young program and ramped it up to the current form, one that has now graduated more than 55 students. [ Missoula Current ] Lincoln’s Hi-Country Snack Foods in midst of multi-million dollar sale The longtime owner of Lincoln-based Hi-Country Snack Foods is ready to leave the business. James Johnson is handing the reins over to Travis Byerly in a multi-million dollar deal. Byerly, who already has ownership in the business, is increasing his stake and will be in control of operations. For more than 40 years, the company has manufactured, packaged and shipped its products – including the well-known jerky – at a site just west of Lincoln, Montana. According to Hi-Country’s website, the company grew from a small operation with just a couple employees to a sprawling factory of 18,000 square feet. As details of the transaction continue to develop, Byerly is working to keep the company local. That’s done in part through the help of a $400,000 loan approved earlier this year and acquired through Montana Businesses Assistance Connection. No timeline was provided on when the sale will be complete. [ KRTV ] ClassPass, Consumer Direct apply for grants to expand Missoula workforce Missoula County commissioners this week approved applications from two growing Missoula companies to expand their workforce through a statewide grant program. ClassPass Inc. ( hiring ) and Consumer Direct Care Network ( hiring ) sought a one-year extension for additional funding through the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund job creation grant. Administered through the Montana Department of Commerce , the grant offers businesses an incentive for providing high-paying jobs. “It’s a state incentive program through the Montana Department of Commerce,” said Nicole Rush, business initiatives director with the Missoula Economic Partnership . “It awards $7,500 per full-time job created by a company in Missoula that is paying at least $19.65 an hour, so it rewards companies for creating permanent, full-time, high-paying jobs.” ClassPass used the grant to hire 30 employees when its operations began in 2018. Now, the company is looking at creating over 100 new Missoula jobs, and funding for 40 of them may come from the state for the next year. Consumer Direct Care Network has created about 40 new jobs as well over the past year, and aims to add another 13. The companies must hire new employees before funds are dispersed. About 24 companies in Missoula have used the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grant program to create 532 jobs since 2013. Collectively, they’ve received $3.7 million in funding and now pay $20.6 million annually in new wages, Rush told the Missoula Current in May. [ Missoula Current ] Geotechnical firm in Hayden, Idaho, expands footprint into Montana On the heels of a record year and on the cusp of a major anniversary, Allwest is expanding to Missoula, Montana. The North Idaho-based geotechnical engineering, environmental and construction materials testing firm was founded in 1999. “We are excited to extend our services into the state of Montana,” Allwest President Chris Beck said. “As we celebrate 20 years, we are looking back at all the success we have had and thank everyone who helped get us where we are. Going forward, we are looking for teaming opportunities and strategic growth.” In addition to its corporate headquarters in Hayden, Idaho, the employee-owned company has offices in Lewiston and Meridian, as well as Spokane. Allwest Hayden Area Manager James Thomasson is overseeing the company’s Missoula office. Allwest has grown to employ more than 100 people during peak construction season and is recruiting for multiple positions. [ Coeur d’Alene Press ] National Guard planning new aviation base in Billings The Montana Department of Military Affairs went public recently with plans to develop a National Guard Aviation Base near Billings Logan International Airport . The new facility in Billings would provide support to eastern Montana. Currently, the only other facility in the state is in Helena. Agency officials aim to build a permanent facility adjacent to the airport, but in the meantime, they plan to lease a facility from the Billings Flying Service . Six aircraft would be stationed in Billings and could provide resources for Medivac Aircraft and Search and Rescue. The facility would also allow for the aviation team and crew members to do their training in the Billings area along with a satellite classroom for remote training, reducing travel time to the current National Guard center in Helena. According to Col. James Wilkins, the center would be an asset to the community of Billings by increasing Billings jobs, and expanding the area’s tax base and capability of resources. The facility will employ eight to 10 full-time employees, and on drill weekends, around 60 people will be on site. The project is still in the planning stages and will undergo an environmental assessment. If the project gains approval, a temporary facility would be operating within about a year. The permanent facility would go online in about four to five years. [ KRTV ] Montana State University's new research lab aims to keep students in-state post graduation Montana State University held an open house this past week for its Applied Research Laboratory that is set to open at the end of the year. According to campus officials, the new facility is being paid for by the Departments of Defense and Energy and is designed for developing military equipment. The Applied Research Lab director Justin Cook said the building will keep science and technology students in-state during and after their collegiate career. "Why Bozeman, Montana? Just look at our technical prowess in photonics, in cyber security and physics," Cook said. "If they want to stay here and work in a technical industry, high growth, high-wage jobs--they can stay to do that." According to the Department of Labor, the most recent numbers show there are more than 55,000 STEM workers in the Treasure State. The average salary of a STEM worker is almost $70,000, compared to the average salary of a non-stem worker, which is around $37,000. Montana State University graduate and Glacigen Materials Inc . co-founder David Driscoll will create more opportunities for students majoring in STEM. The lab is being built by MSU Innovation Campus Partners , a private, Bozeman firm consisting of Charter Realty and Development , Martel Construction and A&E Architects . Construction of the building is anticipated to be complete in January. [ NBC Montana.com ] Bozeman business Schnee’s to represent Montana at White House ‘Made in America’ event For the third time, a Bozeman business is representing the entire state of Montana at a White House event celebrating American manufacturers. “It’s very much an honor,” said Curt Smith, president of Schnee’s in downtown Bozeman. “We got invited by the White House to represent the state of Montana.” When you get invited to go to the White House, it might be tough to say no. For Smith, he’s proud to make the trip, representing both Schnee’s and the Treasure State. “We have been building our boots in Bozeman and even on Main Street since 1987,” he said. “We’re really proud about that.” It’s all a part of the White House’s “Made in America” showcase, bringing all 50 states together in Washington, D.C. A business from each state is picked for exactly what the title suggests: its products and where they were made. It isn’t the first or second time a Bozeman business has been invited to the event. Last year, Montana Instruments made the trip to the White House, demonstrating its cryostation. In the event’s first year, in 2017, it was Bozeman’s Simms Fishing Products . Now Schnee’s has won the honor, making it three years in a row for Bozeman businesses. [ KXLH ] Montana energy storage project lines up financial partner Construction on a $1 billion energy storage system in central Montana could start as soon as next year after its sponsors said last week that they reached a financing agreement with a Danish firm that invests in renewable energy. Carl Borgquist, president of Bozeman-based Absaroka Energy , said the involvement of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners of Denmark marks a significant step forward for the 400-megawatt project near Martinsdale. Next up, he said, is to make arrangements with utilities or others interested in using the Montana facility to complement their own electricity generation. [ The News and Observer ]
What's not to love about these beautiful summer mornings in Montana (finally)! Get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below before we jump into July 4 festivities next week. TIGER grant signed, makes way for employee housing in Big Sky  This past week, just over 15 months after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Gallatin County , on behalf of Big Sky, had won a $10.3 million TIGER grant, the county signed the grant. The grant will enable much-needed improvements on Lone Mountain Trail and has allowed the Powder Light employee housing development to continue moving forward. “Gallatin County is leading the state in economic growth,” Sen. Steve Daines said in a March 6, 2018 statement when the award was announced. “This grant will help the county meet the infrastructure demands of this rapid growth and continue creating good-paying jobs in the community.” The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be used for the construction of approximately seven turn lanes on Lone Mountain Trail, also known as Highway 64, a pedestrian tunnel beneath the highway and nearly $2.5 million for the Skyline bus system, which will include adding four buses and six vans to the existing public transport between Big Sky and the greater Bozeman area. Now that the county has signed the grant, it returns to the U.S. DOT for a final signature before the funds are released and the county can call for bids on construction. With Montana’s short construction season, Grabinski said the proposed work schedule puts project completion and road opening at the end of July 2022, assuming the skies cooperate. The grant is a win for the community and bears witness to Big Sky’s cooperative efforts, according to the Big Sky Chamber CEO Candace Carr Strauss. [ Explore Big Sky ] Bear Paw Development of northern Montana celebrates 50th Anniversary Bear Paw Development Corp.  of northern Montana celebrates 50 years of helping northern Montana communities grow and maintain a livable place for community members. "The partnership between the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Bear Paw represents, I think, the very best of how we can work together to empower and strengthen regions," EDA Denver Regional Director Angela Belden Martinez said. "In your counties, cities, small towns and tribal lands, our partnership and your grit has turned economic challenges into economic opportunities." Since 2006, Bear Paw's Economic Development District coordinated $139,344,049 for projects through the state, federal and local government sources. In the past 35 years, Bear Paw's business lending has leveraged $60 million for more than 319 private sector start-ups and expansions, creating about 1,516 Montana jobs within 31 years. [ Havre Daily News ] Printing for Less announces major expansion of Livingston shop A Livingston print shop is expanding, doubling the size of its plant. A large employer for Bozeman and Livingston, Printing For Less [ hiring ] will unveil its new production and warehouse space in mid-July, according to a news release. That will bring the total size of its building to 101,000 square feet. The expansion comes after PFL landed a $25 million capital investment from Goldman Sachs last year. PFL has grown past the point of just being a print shop to being half a marketing technology company and half an e-commerce and commercial printing center, said chief marketing officer Daniel Gaugler. With 350 employees in Montana, Gaugler said the production building won’t produce new Montana jobs, but the company is always looking for new workers, he said. As with much of the tech industry in the Bozeman and Livingston areas, PFL has felt the worker shortage, he said. The company has had the most luck recruiting through employee referrals and at Montana State University and the Montana Code School. “While we are 400 team members strong, we operate very much like a startup, but with the resources of a larger company,” he said. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ] Utah call center ROI Solutions to expand business in Billings A company that provides call centers and customer service to third-party organizations has chosen Billings for expansion, according to a press release. ROI Solutions [ hiring ], which is headquartered in American Fork, Utah, will expand to up to 100 employees in Billings by this fall, adding about 60 Billings jobs. The company first came to Billings in February, said Allison Corbyn, director of new business recruitment at Big Sky Economic Development . Since its arrival in February, the company has expanded to 40 employees, she said. It’s hoping to expand to 60 by the end of summer, and up to 100 employees by the fall. In vetting Billings as a location, ROI Solutions wanted a market that was similar to Utah, she said. “We were looking for a market that offered a quality workforce, that was easy for us to visit, and where our team leaders from Utah would want to live, and Billings made the short list,” Rob Schow, Chief Executive Officer for ROI Solutions said. [ Helena Independent Record ] Large commercial plaza to break ground next to Bozeman airport Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport will soon be getting a large commercial plaza built nearby. It's the first commercial node next to the growing airport. Belgrade's planning director Jason Karp says they're recycling a longtime gravel pit adjacent to the airport as the site of the new Yellowstone Airport Plaza. According to Karp, phase one will be 53 acres with three leasable spaces. When it's all said and done, Yellowstone Airport Plaza will have restaurants, motels and even a movie theater. [ NBC Montana ] Weeklong event held at MSU aims to help strengthen technology companies across Montana An intensive week long program designed to strengthen Montana-based companies in their early stages was recently held at Montana State University. The event, known as a “HyperAccelerator” program, was hosted by Early Stage Montana , a nonprofit that helps accelerate the growth of emerging technology businesses in Montana with support from the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship , Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at MSU and 406 Labs .  For seven companies that performed well at regional showcase competitions held in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula, the event was an opportunity to receive a combination of classroom instruction and intensive hands-on coaching from more than 35 successful entrepreneurs and investors. Early stage companies included DugalHealth , Vision Aerial , Tadpull , and MyShippingPost as well as a few others. Topics covered throughout the week included best practices for business pitches; exit strategies; business models; strategy; sales and marketing; financing; and valuation, among other topics. According to Pat LaPointe, Early Stage Montana board chairman and managing director of Frontier Angels , “Even the most brilliant entrepreneurs tend to have limitations in their experiential filters on the world and benefit greatly from having other people share relevant experiential filters. The HyperAccelerator is designed to bring a rapid infusion of training, perspective and mentorship to these companies.” [ Montana State University ] Bozeman-headquartered outdoors media company MeatEater just bought one of Idaho’s top outdoors gear brands An outdoors media company helmed by popular hunting personality Steve Rinella, and with corporate headquarters in Bozeman, recently acquired an Idaho-based outdoor gear brand, according to a news release from both companies. MeatEater ( hiring ), a lifestyle website with a popular podcast and Netflix series of the same name, bought First Lite , a hunting apparel company out of Ketchum, Idaho. First Lite will remain headquartered in Ketchum, and its co-founders Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson will continue to work as co-presidents, the release said. MeatEater CEO Kevin Sloan will oversee the integration of the two businesses. First Lite gear is already available for purchase in MeatEater’s online shop . [ Idaho Statesman ]  
School's...out...for...summer! And, we couldn't be more excited about a sunny forecast this week (note the picture of hail that piled up last Saturday). Get caught up with this week's skim of Montana business news below.   Tech company Figure in Bozeman’s Cannery District grows About a year after opening a Bozeman office, tech company Figure [ hiring ] plans to double its staff in the next year. With offices in San Francisco, Montana and Reno, Nevada, the company focuses on home equity, streamlining and shortening the process of gaining access to equity in homes, said Figure spokesman Otto Pohl. According to Pohl, most of Figure’s software engineers are based in Bozeman and Helena. The company seeks to hire a diverse range of workers, said Nate Lampert, human resources business partner at Figure in Bozeman. Women make up about half of Figure’s executive team and 20% of its Bozeman staff. Ten percent of its workers are also veterans, including Lampert, he said. He anticipates adding about 14 more positions to its Bozeman office in the next year. [ Bozeman Chronicle ] Proposed dairy processing facility east of Great Falls secures $2.3 million bridge loan A proposed cheese manufacturing plant planned for east of Great Falls recently closed on a loan with Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA). Big Sky Cheese , which will primarily process fresh milk supplied by local and regional dairy producers into a variety of cheese products. The loan is the first step in the project that is part of Madison Food Park , the corporation that proposed building an agri-business commercial food park east/southeast of Great Falls in 2017. Brett Doney, GFDA president, said they are excited about the project moving forward. “We are trying to grow and diversify both our food and agricultural processing, which is essentially manufacturing, as well as increase agricultural production in the whole Golden Triangle region, which is our Great Falls trade area,” he said. “This will be a Montana branded product, Big Sky Cheese, so it will help promote Montana.” Doney added Big Sky Cheese hopes to break ground next spring. [ KRTV ] Few state job creation grants go to rural Montana. Here’s why. There aren’t too many businesses adding jobs amid the rural fields of north-central Montana these days, but Big Sandy Organics is doing just that. Headquartered in the 600-person town between Great Falls and Havre, the four-year-old business manufactures the Kracklin’ Kamut-brand wheat snack, transforming locally grown large-kernel kamut wheat into a Montana-made product that’s beginning to find its way into stores nationwide. As the company attempts the leap from one-off arrangements with mom-and-pop stores to contracts with national distributors, it’s getting help from a key state jobs program, the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund , designed to nurture businesses that can provide Montana workers with stable, well-paid jobs. A $22,500 grant award through the program will help Big Sandy Organics hire an expected three new employees this year. “For a company like us, that’s a major factor,” said General Manager Thomas Dilworth. The small-town company, however, is an anomaly for the job grants program, which is administered by the Montana Department of Commerce . While the 2005 law that created the Big Sky trust calls for the department to “balance” the needs of urban and rural areas, a Montana Free Press analysis of commerce department data finds that rural counties, home to a third of Montana residents, have received only 16 percent of the $26 million in Montana job creation grants awarded over the program’s history. And five of Montana’s urban areas — Bozeman, Billings, Missoula, Kalispell, and Helena — accounted for 70 percent of the state’s net job creation between 2001 and 2016 . The fundamental challenge, economic developers say, is that it’s easier for government programs to fan job-creation flames where the economy is already running full blast than it is to coax embers to life in places that have, in many cases, struggled with employment declines in timber, mining and agriculture for decades. “What we can do here is focus on outreach and focus on supporting capacity,” said Rice, whom Bullock appointed to lead the commerce department in February. “Going into this summer, it is a big priority for us to do a push in rural areas. [ Missoula Current ] Montana women's cowboy boot business, Canty Boots, gets international attention As many Montanans know, cowboy boots can tell a unique story about your life, your family and where you come from. Nikki Edmundson, of Harrison, Montana, has created a successful business giving old boots new lives with her business, Canty Boots . From this small town, she ships her high-fashion designs to an international audience, most recently Australia. Ranging from classic to extravagant, every pair of refashioned leather boots speaks for themselves. “We’ll take a Tony Lama boot and give it a Lucchese bottom,” she said. “And we play with patterns and colors. We’re using so many elements, different boot tops and bottoms, plus belts and braids and leather. Edmundson is also proud to represent the Last Best Place in a world of fashion that often focuses somewhere else. “I think a lot of people think you have to be in LA, or you have to be in those hot spots,” she said. “It just goes to show you can stay where you are and still make your dream come true. We’ve planted our roots here, and we’re gonna stay and just continue the dream.” [ KXLH ] Helena-based SoFi brings high tech to high altitude Five years ago, a fast-growing personal finance company, SoFi [ hiring ], expanded from the ocean breeze of California to the mountain air of Montana, bringing a wealth of high-tech jobs to a workforce of talented software engineers ready for a new opportunity. Today, 140 staff in Helena form a large core of the company’s engineering department, which continues to grow. According to VP of Engineering, David Thompson, some of the company’s best recruits come from Montana’s university system, which Thompson said produces “fantastic” engineers, while others come from outside of the state, easily attracted by Montana’s outdoor recreation opportunities and work-life balance. Thompson said the distance from the other offices is a lot shorter with modern technology and ever-growing air infrastructure. According to Thompson, everyone at SoFi marches to the beat of the same drum but with enough freedom to create their own subcultures too. [ Choose Montana ] Film industry insiders say new tax credit will boost jobs, bring big productions to Montana A group of film industry professionals in Montana and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have succeeded in an effort to create a competitive tax incentive to lure film and television productions to Montana. The bill provides a 20% production expenditure transferable tax credit, with additional add-on incentives that can increase the credit to a maximum of 35% of the total production investment. Proponents say the new law will create employment opportunities for people like drivers, horse-wranglers, hairdressers and carpenters while opening up opportunities for artists, filmmakers and producers in the state. Missoula-based filmmaker Lynn-Wood Fields  said, “The reason this had such bipartisan support is it’s really important for our economy. Film and productions ripple the money out to the hotel industry, rental cars, food and taverns, etc. It also creates many good-paying blue-collar jobs from builders to drivers to caterers." Fields and other industry insiders like Steve Grover of Montana Studios and line producer/production manager Chris Cronyn all believe lots of significant productions will now begin shooting in Montana. [ Missoulian ] Women’s coworking space to open in Bozeman’s Cannery District When Christina Calabrese heard about a women’s coworking space opening in New York City, she said she felt homesick for the city for the first time since moving to Montana. “It seemed like such a valuable way of getting people together,” she said. Calabrese, who works in real estate in Big Sky, said she has missed the networking and relationship-building opportunities more prevalent in bigger cities. After talking to more women, she found others felt the same way and decided to found a women’s coworking space in the Cannery District with her partner, Amanda Diehl. After doing research, the two women saw a need. There are more than 1,900 women-owned businesses in Bozeman, according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners, and more than 10,000 working women, according to the 2011-2015 American Community Survey Population Estimate. Called Sky Oro , the coworking space will be for remote workers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Working professionals and stay-at-home moms alike can sign up to be members and attend the multiple monthly events it will put on. We personally know these two awesome boss ladies and are so excited to see them launch and grow Sky Oro in our local community! [ Bozeman Chronicle ] Billings hydroponic farms, one using fish 'waste' as fertilizer, allow fresh greens to be harvested year-round Veronaka Evenson of Billings-based Swanky Roots and other upstart farmers wanted to change how local greens are grown and sold in Montana and are making strides in providing organically grown produce that is healthier than imported produce and is also capable of being harvested fresh year-round. Using the growing technique hydroponics, produce is cultivated completely through water rather than soil. Nutrients are added to the water using decomposed food waste like discarded egg shells and vegetable peelings. Both businesses believe this is only the beginning for sustainable crops in Montana. Through groups like Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society and Yellowstone Valley Food Hub business can pull resources from local farms and businesses for widespread distribution. Additionally, business service provider 406 Market works with several farms to create connections between distributors, manufacturers and consumers. Billings-based Swift Microgreens co-founder Jessica Hart pointed out how these partnerships, along with new business ventures, are opening the door for future avenues of sustainable production. These emerging businesses are still relatively young and are met with unique challenges such as a greater need for electrical power and a slower process for maintenance. Both greenhouses alluded to other approaches such as biodigestion, anaerobic digestion and regenerative agriculture as solutions in the future. But, these small-scale operations are thinking big ideas in the future. [ Billings Gazette ] Next Frontier Capital announces successful final close of fund II with $38m in LP commitments and 11 of its 12 investments are top Montana employers With 12 investments to date, Next Frontier Capital (NFC) recently announced the successful final close of its Venture Fund II with $38m in LP Subscriptions. Will Price, Founder and Managing Partner, noted, "The final close enables us to continue to execute on our mission to invest in companies of impact, utility, and value. With the final close complete, we turn our attention to a healthy pipeline of Fund II prospective investments, while maintaining focus on building value across our ten Fund I companies and our two Fund II investments to date, Ataata and onXMaps ( hiring ). We are humbled by the LP’s vote of confidence, which we attribute to the value our founders and management teams are creating." Les Craig, General Partner, noted that “the influx of capital, totaling $92m into our companies to date, is making it possible for Montana founders to build, fund, and scale industry leading companies that are competing on a national stage." In addition to Fund II’s investments to date, Fund I’s portfolio includes SiteOne Therapeutics , Submittable ( hiring ), Clearas , Quiq ( hiring on The Work Spot ), Orbital Shift ( hiring ), IronCore Labs ( hiring ), Phoenix Labs ( hiring ), Blackmore Sensors ( hiring ), OppSource , and Remix Labs . Eleven of the twelve NFC investments are top employers in Montana. “The job creation and economic catalyst that Next Frontier Capital has provided for Montana continues to demonstrate how much needed risk capital can drive innovation and growth in our tech sectors,” said Stan Abel, President and Chief Executive Officer of SiteOne Therapeutics and Chairman of the Montana Bioscience Alliance . The diverse portfolio of the firm demonstrates the excellent investment opportunities in Montana. [ Next Frontier Capital ] Montana organization HRDC awarded $500K for tiny home village Bozeman-based Human Resource Development Council ( hiring ) has been awarded a $500,000 contract to develop a village of 200-square-foot homes for people who are homeless. Fannie Mae announced recently that Bozeman’s HRDC was among the five winners in a competition looking for innovative proposals addressing affordable housing and health. The council has announced, more than two years ago, the goal of building a tiny home village in Bozeman that would offer stable housing as well as job and health services. Community Development Director Tracy Menuez says the council aims to have something on the ground by the last quarter of the contract's two-year deadline. [ The Virginian Pilot ] U.S. Small Business Administration opens its first satellite office in Billings By teaming up, officials from two federal departments hope their small business support programs can reach the farthest flung corners of Eastern Montana. The U.S. Small Business Administration has partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to open a satellite office in Billings to serve entrepreneurs and small business owners in Billings and across Eastern Montana. [ Billings Gazette ] Fresh off a $530M round, Aurora acquires Bozeman-based lidar startup Blackmore Late last month, Aurora , the self-driving car startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon , acquired the Bozeman-based lidar company Blackmore ( hiring ). The Blackmore purchase follows another smaller, and previously unknown, acquisition of 7D Labs that occurred earlier this year. Aurora’s larger Blackmore acquisition comes on the heels of its $530 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital and “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. Aurora did not disclose the terms of the deal. Blackmore, which has 70 employees was a seeming oddball choice amongst the Silicon Valley scene, but in the world of autonomous vehicles (and in military circles), Blackmore is well-known and has been considered an acquisition target for some time. Two funding rounds in 2016 and 2018 that brought in backers like BMW i Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures raised Blackmore’s profile. (The company has raised $21.5 million). Cruise, GM’s self-driving unit, was looking at the company last year, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. But it’s the company’s tech, which has been under development for nearly a decade, that got Aurora CEO Chris Urmson’s attention. Blackmore is one of the few companies developing Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) lidar. That kind of consolidation will likely continue, Blackmore CEO Reibel predicted, in part because it’s challenging for lidar companies to “go it alone.” The acquisition of Blackmore is just one example in the past two years of lidar startups either announcing large equity and debt rounds or being snapped up by companies developing autonomous vehicle technology. [ TechCrunch ] National Geographic names the Reserve a Last Wild Place National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration since 1888, investing in bold people and transformative ideas to increase understanding of our world and generate solutions for a healthy, more sustainable future for generations to come. National Geographic’s ultimate vision is a planet in balance. To help move toward that goal, National Geographic has launched a decade-long initiative to help protect the last wild places on our planet. To ensure that the natural resources that sustain life on Earth are protected in perpetuity, National Geographic is partnering with leading conservation organizations that have proven track records in securing large landscapes and have made lifelong commitments to protecting specific regions of the world. As a partner in National Geographic’s Last Wild Places initiative, American Prairie Reserve ( hiring on The Work Spot) and National Geographic are working to capture best practices; amplify the scale of conservation efforts like these; and jointly develop and share tools, technology, and training that will greatly increase impact in the broader conservation sector. [ American Prairie Reserve ] St. Pat's Hospital announces plans for new 'multi-million' dollar medical office building in Missoula St. Patrick Hospital, operated by Providence Health and Services Montana ( hiring ), announced this week that it will break ground this fall on a new medical office building near downtown Missoula. According to Providence Montana chief executive Joyce Dombrouski, “With patient demand outpacing our capacity, expanding our footprint at Providence St. Pat’s downtown Missoula campus will enable us to continue to provide quality care to enhance access and meet the needs of Western Montana residents.” Dombrouski also sits on the board of the Missoula Economic Partnership and said the new building might spur more investment in the area. She said the new building sends a signal to potential employers in Missoula that the healthcare industry is strong here, which helps attract talented employees. And while she doesn't expect Providence to add any full-time employees as a result of the new building, she said it will provide temporary Montana construction jobs and increase the hospital's capacity for seeing patients. [ Missoulian ]
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