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The Work Spot is a statewide, centralized hub for professionals already living in Montana or those looking to get here to find top Montana career opportunities across the state, learn about the diverse and impressive companies growing in our Montana communities and easily keep a pulse on Montana business and resources - all in one spot. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID HEBERT PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN Industry's fastest home equity loan now available online from FinTech company Figure™ San Francisco-based Figure Technologies, Inc. (FigureTM), a FinTech company with offices now in Bozeman, recently announced the release of its first product, the Figure Home Equity LoanPLUS. Figure's flagship product allows consumers to borrow against the equity in their homes without the paperwork-intensive, 45-day process most lenders require. Figure offers approval in five minutes and funding in five days — all online. Figure will also soon launch its second product, a sell and leaseback alternative to reverse mortgages for retirees and empty nesters. This is a unique solution addressing a massive demographic challenge — underfunded retirement. We should also mention that the company is hiring . [ PR Newswire ] New tech developed in Billings detects gunshot, instantly sends alarm, promising new market What if a shooting in a school or any other public area were reported and its location identified within five seconds of the first shot? How valuable would that technology be? The technology has been developed by a Billings-area inventor, Alan Overcast, the founder of Tracer Technology Systems, Inc. Overcast plans to produce the product in Billings and is already searching for a site for its manufacturing plant, having finally acquired a patent and the necessary certifications. The technology can accurately detect the sound of gunfire, recognizing it from all other sounds. The system then immediately notifies law enforcement, or any others designated to be notified, utilizing existing means of communication. Overcast likens his system to smoke detectors. “When was the last time there was a death reported in a school because of a fire?” he asks. The answer: 1958. 1958 is also the year that smoke detectors were mandated by law in all schools. But schools are not the only potential market for Tracer Technology Systems. In fact, public schools in the US represent only about five percent of the potential market, said Overcast. [ Big Sky Business Journal ] Glacier Rail Park opens in Kalispell Glacier Rail Park is now open for business in Kalispell. State and local officials celebrated the grand opening of the business park Monday morning. The more than 40-acre site off Whitefish Stage Road is home to Kalispell’s rail-based businesses, including Northwest Drywall , a CHS fertilizer distribution plant, and a Mission Mountain Rail transload facility ( hiring ). Montana West business development and marketing manager Kim Morisaki said the Glacier Rail Park project has been in the works for eight years and has cost more than $20 million in local, state and federal funding. Nevertheless, city officials say it will change Kalispell for the better. Train traffic will be rerouted from downtown Kalispell to Glacier Rail Park, a crucial step in the city’s plan to revitalize and build a trail system downtown. “There are 44 acres of undeveloped or blighted property along the train tracks in Kalispell,” Morisaki said. “As soon as those train tracks come out, that property is available for redevelopment.” Removing the tracks will be an immediate benefit for drivers in Kalispell, but officials say Glacier Rail Park will benefit the city long-term too. [ NBC Montana ] Can Do: KOA, the future of camping On a recent episode of Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs , host Arnie Sherman talks with Kampgrounds of America President Toby O’Rourke , the first woman president in the company’s 56-year history. KOA got its start in 1962 in Billings, Montana, when the sight of travelers heading west on Highway 10 towards the Seattle World's Fair sparked the imaginations of a group of business people. Noticing the numbers of people overnighting by the side of the road, they created a campground along the Yellowstone River where, for $1.75 a night, travelers could pitch their tents near a picnic table, fire ring and a hot shower. Since then, KOA, which is still based in Billings, adopted a franchise structure, and the number of campgrounds across North America exploded. Listen and learn on this episode of Can Do: how the recreation industry is evolving, how to create a feeling of community among your many franchisees, and what role technology will play in the future of outdoor-focused businesses. [ Montana Public Radio ] Non-resident tourists spend $3.2B in Montana; Glacier Country reaps 17,500 Montana jobs Nonresident travelers spent $3.24 billion across Montana in the most recent data period, according to an annual report published by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research . This is an increase of 2.6 percent from the previous year’s spending estimate. Glacier Country in northwest Montana received more than $1.07 billion in spending by nonresident travelers – 33 percent of all spending in the state. This spending supported a total of $1.32 billion of economic activity and more than 17,500 Montana jobs, along with more than $461 million in associated labor income. In south-central Montana’s Yellowstone Country, travel spending by nonresidents totaled over $917 million, which was 29 percent of the state total. This spending supports about $1.16 billion of economic activity. Likewise, over 15,200 Montana jobs and nearly $410 million in labor income can be attributed to this spending. The full report, including estimates of the economic contribution of nonresident travelers in the other four Montana travel regions, along with county-level estimates, is available on the ITRR website here . [ Missoula Current ] Montana Made: Lewis and Clark Brewing Company One Treasure State company is managing to stand out in the crowded craft brewing industry. The Lewis and Clark Brewing Company , which started in the Capital City (Helena, Montana) more than a decade ago, has come to gain national recognition. What started at home has grown into a sprawling factory with state-of-the-art equipment pumping out some of Lewis and Clark’s most popular brews, including Miner’s Gold and Prickly Pear Pale Ale. The brewery added a $9 million expansion just last year, increasing production six times over. Owner Max Pigman said the one thing that makes the beer so special is Montana’s amber waves of grain. “Being able to utilize some of the best-malted barley in the world — which is grown just north of us in the Golden Triangle and malted just north of us up just above Great Falls — is a huge advantage for us.” The brewery, which currently distributes into Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington and soon Wyoming, is now looking at expansion overseas with Pigman saying that he’s already traveled to Japan to talk with some interested clients. [ KPAX ] University of Montana disease treatment research center pulls in $22 million in grants A research center at the University of Montana earned $22.4 million this summer and fall from the National Institutes of Health . "It has validated that what we set up in Missoula through this Center for Translational Medicine is working to advance discoveries at the University of Montana," said Jay Evans, center director and research professor in the Division of Biological Sciences. The center launched at UM after GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines , a giant pharmaceutical company with an office in Hamilton, Montana, announced it would move its staff out of state. The team did not want to leave Montana and instead negotiated employment contracts with UM, where staff have been since 2016. The grant pays mostly for personnel, with staff jobs paying top salaries in Missoula from $50,000 to $75,000. Once the center has hired all the staff it needs, it will have roughly 30 employees, of which 16 will have split appointments between UM and corporate partner and Missoula-based startup Inimmune, with Evans as CEO. [ Missoulian ] MSU tech park vies for federal research facilities, would mean 600 jobs to Bozeman A Bozeman tech park is vying to become the next headquarters for two major federal food and agriculture research offices. The move would make the city home to more than 600 new Bozeman jobs. In August, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced plans to move the research hubs out of Washington, D.C., and the Montana State University Innovation Campus hopes to sell the Trump administration on Bozeman as a base for the nation’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture needs a roughly 90,000-square-foot facility to house 360 employees while the second office needs roughly 70,000 square feet for 260 employees. Justin Cook, the MSU innovation Campus executive director, said Bozeman’s connection to good schools, outdoor adventure and a growing airport makes the city a contender. MSU Alumni Foundation , a separate nonprofit fundraising arm of the university, owns the tech park and has until Oct. 15 to deliver a letter of interest to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [ Bozeman Daily Chronicle ]
Chernin Group acquires controlling stake in Steven Rinella’s Bozeman-based MeatEater Inc. Chernin Group has become the principal investor in MeatEater Inc. , ( hiring  a VP of Finance ), a new outdoor-lifestyle media company based in Bozeman, Montana. It was founded by Steven Rinella , author, podcaster and host of Netflix’s “MeaterEater” series. Rinella recently relocated to Bozeman from Seattle. The Bozeman-based media company, formed in February 2018, caters to an audience of wildlife enthusiasts, providing a hub for hunting, fishing, food and conservation. MeatEater will center on Rinella’s popular show and podcast, but will develop additional content that appeals not just to hunters and anglers but all fans of outdoor lifestyle and sustainable eating, execs said. Chernin Group owns a minority equity stake in MeatEater Inc. but, in terms of governance, has the controlling interest. Other stakeholders include founder Steven Rinella, MeatEater Inc. CEO Kevin Sloan and Zero Point Zero Production, which produces “MeatEater” for Netflix. Sloan, MeatEater’s CEO, joined the company in July after serving as president of hunting-apparel brand Sitka Gear ( hiring ). “My background is understanding outdoor and building brands, across the commerce spectrum,” he said. Currently, MeatEater Inc. has about 10 employees. Sloan expects to double that by the end of 2018. [ Variety ] Montana manufacturers to offer public tours as part of national event Members of the public will have opportunities to tour Montana manufacturing businesses as part of a national celebration of manufacturing. Aerospace manufacturer Boeing in Helena ( hiring ), Bozeman-based snowboard binding maker Spark R&D ( hiring ) and aluminum parts producer Spika in Lewistown ( hiring ), as well as West Paw ( hiring ), Simms ( hiring ), TowHaul and Quantel ( hiring ) all of Bozeman will open their doors during Manufacturing Day on Friday, October 5. “If you’ve ever wondered how things are made, these tours are a great way to find out,” said Paddy Fleming, director of Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) at Montana State University. The events are also a chance for people to see what manufacturing jobs look like and determine whether a manufacturing career might be a good fit for them, he added. MMEC works one on one with manufacturers to improve their production processes, expand into new markets and develop their workforces, among other things. MMEC encouraged its manufacturing clients around the state to participate in Manufacturing Day and has been helping them organize their events. A full listing of the Manufacturing Day events and information about how to attend can be found here . [ Montana State University ] Missoula’s Inimmune receives $600K to develop novel treatments for seasonal allergies Missoula-based Inimmune Corp . has received a nearly $600,000 federal grant to identify and advance novel treatments for seasonal allergies. The Small Business Innovation Research contract was awarded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases . “This award is one more example of Inimmune’s unwavering pursuit to discover and develop novel immunotherapies for the treatment of allergy, autoimmunity, infectious disease and cancer,” said Jay Evans, Inimmune co-founder, president and CEO, in a written release. That award will help develop a vaccine to fight a particular bacteria known as P. aeruginosa. Considered a deadly pathogen, the bacteria serves as major cause of infections in diabetic wounds, lungs and other regions of the body. [ Missoula Current ] District spotlight: Bozeman, Montana crafting a strong recipe for growth Bozeman was recently spotlighted by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve for its strong recipe for growth. The spotlight series is an occasional feature in which the Minneapolis Fed has held private meetings with area businesses to gauge regional economic conditions. Bozeman, which has seen above-average growth for an extended period of time, is incurring growing pains as Montana’s fourth most-populous community transitions from small town to big city. This is the situation that Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari saw and heard about firsthand during a visit to the region in early September of this year. Bozeman and the surrounding Gallatin County have experienced uninterrupted population growth for the last half-century through both strategic growth and some serendipity. For starters, natives and newcomers alike have long been attracted to the region’s natural amenities. Additionally, Bozeman is home to Montana State University , which continues to set enrollment records for the past 10 years alongside its recognition for research and growing niches in energy, transportation, photonics, biofilm, and other areas which is producing graduates in high-demand fields and has spun out 50 startup companies. But maybe no sector or institution has had more economic impact on Bozeman—especially in recent years—than its high-tech sector. In a roundtable with Kashkari, high-tech business leaders pointed to how the RightNow Technologies buyout helped nurture the next phase of the region’s high-tech entrepreneurialism. At least 15 startups in Bozeman trace their roots back to RightNow employees. Unfortunately, all of this good news also leads to some bad news. Bozeman’s labor force is growing significantly faster than the state’s three largest metro areas, but labor demand from high-tech and other companies across the local economy is growing faster than the workforce can supply. And the cost of living is also getting pushed higher. [ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ] Small Montana business owners shine at Minnow Tank Business Plan Competition that took place in Glasgow, Montana The first Minnow Tank Business Plan Competition , created and hosted by Great Northern Development Corporation , took place this past weekend in Glasgow (located in northeast Montana). Inspired by the business reality show, Shark Tank, the Minnow Tank Competition focused on small businesses in this region of the state, bringing in contestants from nine Montana towns across seven counties. The competition was partitioned into two categories: start-up businesses and existing businesses, each competing to take home a $5,000 prize . Competitors presented their businesses to the assembled crowd and a panel of three judges: Julie Jaksha, regional director of the Small Business Development Center for Headwaters RC&D ; Michael Peter, director of the Food and Agriculture Development Center ; and Maggie Metzger, small business program specialist at the Montana Department of Transportation . Some of the start-up presentations included Bainville Meats, Rubicon Cookshack, Ashley Stentoft (a home decor store), Knuckle Biscuits (all-natural dog treats), Cobb Medical (with a CPR manikin designed to improve retention and understanding of CPR) and Gladrock (with plans to revive the Gladstone Hotel into retail space and limited hotel space). Some of the existing businesses included Prairie Breeze Equestrian Center , Missouri Breaks Brewing , Prairie Hills Recovery Center (a treatment center in Sidney and Glendive who expressed a desire to offer more comprehensive treatment for addiction and trauma) and Gorilla Heating and Air. After the votes were tallied and the judges conferred, Cobb Medical and Prairie Hills Recovery walked away with checks. [ Glasgow Courier ] Program unveiled to help Montana's rural communities A new program of the Main Street Montana Project will focus on creating economic opportunities in small towns and rural and tribal communities in Montana, state officials said recently during a stop in Choteau, Montana. Beginning this fall, Main Street Montana – Rural Partners will start six community partnerships to provide aid and help economic and community development projects to rural Montana. This will be done with support from the lieutenant governor’s office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Gov. Steve Bullock launched the Main Street Montana Project in 2013 and had public and private sectors work together to implement a business plan for Montana and provide direction for the state’s economic future. Gov. Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney said they will develop partnerships with community leaders, businesses, local organizations and the public in rural communities to address challenges unique to rural Montana and connect communities to share opportunities. [ Great Falls Tribune ] Missoula-based PatientOne completes 12-week Boomtown Accelerator in Boulder, Colorado, and recommends experience for other startups For the PatientOne team, startups do not exist in a vacuum. Co-founder John Beighle said networking is one of the most important pieces of the startup puzzle. Beighle said, “Learning how you can help people reach their goals and how they can connect you to others who can help you succeed is a key element in a startup.” PatientOne had worked with Paul Gladen at the UM Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana . Gladen introduced the company to a number of connections, including a potential Montana-based investor who recommended they apply to the Boomtown Accelerator’s HealthTech program in Boulder, Colorado. In under two weeks, PatientOne applied for and was accepted into the program. The accelerator experience, Beighle said, was transformative. It was also a lot of work - from challenging their product to properly preparing pro forma and business models. Beighle said the accelerator aimed to help growth both the startups and their network of potential customers and investors. “We’re now feeling a 100 percent improvement in our company trajectory in order to make it successful and profitable,” Beighle said. “We were at a phase in company growth where we needed an outside influence like an accelerator to perfect and validate our company and product.” [ Montana High Tech Business Alliance ] Exports play large role in Montana economy According to the U.S. Census Bureau , international exports play a large role in the Montana economy with more than $1.6 billion in Montana goods being bought by other countries in 2017. “Export is critically important bringing additional dollars into our economy,” said Casey Lozar with The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, “It allows us to be resilient as our domestic economy has its ups and downs.” Montana’s largest international importer of commodities is Canada with $685 million exported to Canada last year. This week, the Trump administration announced that trade officials from the U.S., Mexico and Canada had reached a deal to restructure the North American Free Trade Agreement. While the impacts and timeline are not entirely clear at this point, officials have begun scouring the details to understand the potential impacts. [ KTVH ] Fitness tech company ClassPass in Missoula celebrates 100-worker milestone In less than a year, a high-tech fitness-focused company called ClassPass has gone from just a few workers to more than 100 relatively highly paid employees in Missoula. And they are still hiring . The company will also soon be moving into a new 15,000-square-foot office on the fifth floor of the First Interstate Bank building downtown. The company has benefited from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund program, which reimburses companies who pay relatively high wages and bring in revenue from outside Montana. ClassPass has received $159,000 in the past for creating 22 Montana jobs and will get reimbursed about $300,000, minus administrative fees, for another 40 new Montana jobs in the future. Governor Bullock, who visited the office this past week to celebrate the achievement, said the company has seen “meteoric” growth. “Everybody takes credit for ClassPass being here, but really the reason I think ClassPass is here is because of the community, the quality of life, the talented trained people that they’ve hired,” he said. [ Missoulian ] One Big Sky District in Billings aims to be more than a convention center, developer says Landmark President Bob Dunn, the developer who’s studying the feasibility of creating the One Big Sky District in downtown Billings, has said the proposed multi-use convention center is only one project anchor he and his team are evaluating. “You will soon see the magnitude of opportunity we think exists around health and wellness,” Dunn said of the other district planned for the development, which Landmark and its Billings partners are studying through the end of the year. “It’s clearly one of the catalysts for growth in the future.” Capital investment, he said, will follow the growth of Billings’ two biggest medical centers, St. Vincent Healthcare ( hiring ) and Billings Clinic ( hiring ). He said mixed-use development, including multi-generational housing, will naturally tend to cluster in the wellness district, which also benefits from the influence of Billings’ nearby four-year institutions — Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University Billings . The wellness district could also attract startups and more traditional medical technology companies, “maybe on a modest scale,” Dunn said. [ Billings Gazette ]
PHOTO CREDIT: HAZER LIVE MSU business college to honor six Montana family businesses on Oct. 26 Six businesses will receive Family Business Day awards at the 2018 Montana State University Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship State Farm Insurance Family Business Day, set for Friday, Oct. 26 in Bozeman. The 2018 winners are: Eaton Turner Jewelry of Helena in the very small business category (fewer than 10 employees); Collection Bureau Services, Inc. of Missoula in the small business category (10-30 employees); Montana Ale Works of Bozeman in the medium business category (30-50 employees); A.M. Welles, Inc. of Norris in the large business category (more than 50 employees); Hayden Truck Repair of Belgrade in the old business category (operating at least 50 years); and Tongue River Winery of Miles City in the new business category (operating 10 or fewer years). Additionally, this year’s speakers will include U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Dean Folkvord, founder of Wheat Montana and Sacajawea Hotel . Panel topics will include resources available to family businesses, regional and federal policies affecting businesses and advice for turning business challenges into successes. The Montana Family Business program is in its 25th year and the public is welcome to the event. [ Montana State University ] $10K to give away: Missoula women pool resources, accepting grant applications A Missoula group comprising dozens of women from all different backgrounds has pooled their money and is looking to donate $10,000 to a local organization that helps women and children. The newly formed Missoula Women’s Giving Circle has announced its first-ever grant cycle. Anyone who wants to apply has until Monday, October 8 at 11:59 p.m. to submit a request. The Women’s Giving Circle is a project of the Missoula Community Foundation (MCF) in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Montana . Its aim is to engage women of diverse backgrounds with varying wealth levels to build community and grow philanthropy, according to Meredith Printz of the MCF. A steering committee will choose three worthy organizations from the applications received, and the finalists will each make five-minute pitches in front of the full membership in mid-November. [ Missoulian ] Household wage growth in Missoula ranks 5th nationally; Montana tops Census charts According to information released by the U.S. Census Bureau , Montana as a whole had the nation’s fastest growth in household median income last year. And according to the data, Montana’s growth is outpacing California, ranked third, and Washington, ranked fifth. According to Barb Wagner, the state’s chief economist, “We’ve had very strong wage growth in the state over the past 10 years. We’re the fourth fastest growing state in the nation for wage growth. And Montana’s wages are probably the number one reason why our household median income has increased so much.” Last year, the average Montana wage ticked up 3.2 percent, helping drive gains in the state’s household median income, which now stands at $53,386, according to Census data. While wages are the primary driver for gains in household income, Wagner said, other factors are at play, including income earned from retirement, investments and business ownership. And despite the high marks, Montana’s average wage in 2017 was just $42,050, placing it near the bottom nationally – a trend that began more than half a century ago. Wagner said Montana’s wages were fairly competitive with the national average until around 1950, when it began a steady decline. Not until the turn of the 21st century did it show signs of reversing course, she said. “It was a 50-year time frame that saw us go from average to below average,” Wagner said. “Now we’ve had 17 years where the trend has reversed itself, and since the recession, Montana has had stronger wage growth than the rest of the nation. We’ve reversed the trend, and getting back to more equality with national wages. Though, we’re not quite there yet.” [ Missoula Current ] Winners announced for the inaugural Early Stage Montana Showcase The inaugural Early Stage Montana Statewide Showcase took place last weekend in Bozeman where seven high tech businesses from around Montana competed for $50,000 in seed funding. Early Stage MT is a non-profit collaboration of Big Sky Economic Development Authority, Blackstone LaunchPads at MSU and UM , Frontier Angels , Montana High Tech Business Alliance , Montana State University , Montana Manufacturing Extension Center , MonTEC , Missoula Economic Partnership , Next Frontier Capital , and Prospera Business Network . The final showcase, which featured emerging tech companies from across the state, alongside venture capital firms, representatives from accelerators and other tech influencers, resulted in a tie for first place between Bozeman-based Sellout and Missoula-based Superior Traffic Services . Both companies walked away with $25,000 investments with the chance to pitch to Frontier Angels next month. Bozeman-based Alosant was the runner-up and will also be at October's meeting to pitch for a chance at angel funding. [ Early Stage Montana ] New lime mine anticipated in Drummond could bring Montana jobs In an area with few Montana job opportunities, Dennis Washington’s company has a lime mine in the works outside of Drummond, though it may be some years before it comes to fruition, say company officials. The new mine will be about 55 miles west of Butte, very close to the tiny town of Drummond. The new mine is expected to create approximately 30 to 40 Montana jobs, said Mark Thompson, Montana Resources ( hiring ) vice president for environmental affairs. The lime mine will be its own independent company called Montana Limestone Resources. It will operate under the umbrella of the Washington Corporation , based in Missoula. Thompson said that the mine has been in the works for five or six years. Montana Resources (MR) currently gets its lime from a mine near Townsend, Montana. However, Montana Limestone Resources won’t be opening any time soon, because the mine has a contract with its current supplier. Thompson did not have a projected start date. Kristi Ponozzo, spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency still has to do an environmental assessment, and that could take up to a year. But if all goes well, Montana Limestone Resources could be fully permitted by 2020. [ Montana Standard ] Missoula startup looks to enter national debate with tool for non-lethal defense Joe Anderson, CEO of Missoula-based startup Reflex Protect , describes his product as “a 21st century fire extinguisher for violence.” The startup, dubbed a potential high-growth company to watch, has developed a non-lethal spray for self defense. The pistol-grip nozzle deploys a stream of jellied CS gas suited for close quarters, such as hospitals, schools and offices. Unlike bear or pepper spray, Anderson said, the product doesn’t cross-contaminate, and it sticks only to what it hits. That’s beneficial in close settings where the residual effects from aerosols or mists are a concern. Along with the defense canister, Reflex Protect teamed up with chemists from Rivertop Renewables in Missoula to develop an accompanying product that “neutralizes, cleans and soothes” the effects of the Iocane gel. Since introducing its product, Reflex Protect has landed several contracts, including contracts with Providence hospital in both Missoula and Alaska and Polson’s schools, hospital and court system. [ Missoula Current ] Construction underway on new dialysis center in downtown Billings Construction began this week on a new $3.9 million, 114,309-square-foot dialysis center in Billings. By the time construction is complete next summer, twice as many patients will be served at the clinic that's a joint venture between Billings Clinic ( hiring ) and Dialysis Clinic Inc. ( hiring ). The new clinic will provide ground-level access to patients. It is also in close proximity to the main campus of the Billings Clinic. Dr. Randall Gibb, Billings Clinic CEO, pointed out that the new dialysis clinic is good both for patients and the Billings community. First, it meets the growing need for dialysis care, which is increasing by about 5 percent a year. CTA Architects ( hiring ), Sanderson Stewart ( hiring ) and Fisher Construction Inc. ( hiring ) of Billings are all involved in the clinic’s design and construction. [ Billings Gazette ] Digital done right: How small Montana businesses are creating a big online presence Wolf Creek Angler is a little fly-fishing shop with a worldwide presence. Nestled in a small town of 477 people, the business in Wolf Creek, Montana, has 4,700 followers on Facebook and people come from all over the world to visit Wolf Creek and make what they’ve seen online their reality. Owner Jason Nitscheke says daily posts on social media help drive the continuing organic online presence as well as utilization of the Montana brand. Another area expert doing online marketing right is Tizer Botanical Gardens and Arboretum in Jefferson City. Not only has the business received an Outstanding Media Award from the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association , its Facebook page caught the interest of Facebook itself and was used as a success story when the social media company came to Helena in July for its Facebook Community Boost, which shared information with small businesses on how to best utilize the social media platform. The Facebook site has 6,000 followers from all over the world. [ Independent Record ] The succession crisis of baby boomer businesses A crisis is brewing in Montana and across the country for business owners in their 60s and 70s. More and more baby boomers are facing a stark reality – no one wants to take over their enterprises. And, the anticipated economic loss could reach well into the trillions of dollars. The numbers are truly mind-boggling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, baby boomers own about two-thirds of all companies (12 million businesses), with more than half deemed to be family enterprises. And this demographic group is exiting the workforce in record numbers at 10,000 individuals daily. Their challenge has been how to successfully hand off their hard-earned legacies. Montana has a significantly higher preponderance of family-owned businesses than the rest of the nation, believed to exceed 90 percent in Montana. From Main Street bakeries, liquor stores, cattle ranches and winter wheat farms to Billings-based First Interstate Bank ( hiring ) and shipping powerhouse Washington Corporation ( hiring ), family businesses are almost entirely driving our economy. In many cases, Montana’s family-owned businesses are left to fend for themselves. Some have been successful passing on the reigns, such as Butte-based Markovich Construction , which is now in the hands of the third generation. Others have secured business continuity by selling to Montana-based buyers. Just a few years ago, Missoula-based Quality Supply, owned by Dave and Suzanne Peterson, merged their business of 30 years with Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply ( hiring ). Through the process of merging, they secured the jobs of more than 160 employees. Recognizing the growing issue, new organizations like Family Business Partners are starting up to provide family-owned businesses with education, knowledge and resources specific to their needs to protect not only their hard-earned legacies, but to preserve and expand the Montana jobs they have brought to our state’s economy. [ Montana Business Quarterly ] From Five on Black and Mirch Masala to Dee-O-Gee, Montana businesses come to Billings Two Montana-famous businesses have announced their plans to open up their first storefronts in Billings this fall, generating excitement among residents and business leaders in town. Dee-O-Gee's expansion into Billings in November will be its first move outside Bozeman, where the company now has two locations. A Kalispell store will open next spring. Bozeman-based Dee-O-Gee launched in 2008 as a boutique pet supply and grooming store. It quickly grew into a way of life. "It's this hub of pet lovers and social activity," owner Josh Allen said. As the Allens developed the franchise model for their store, they wanted to ensure that Dee-O-Gee's specific vibe would follow the brand and that the quality of its products would not diminish. The location in Billings will be owned by a group of partners and run by a general manager hired by the store. Back in Bozeman, the Allens brought in a husband-and-wife team to take over the two stores, leaving the Allens free to oversee the company and guide the brand. Likewise, Brazilian fast casual restaurant Five on Black , which started in Missoula in 2013, has grown from its single location in Missoula to four restaurants across the state and two in Colorado in the past five years. The company announced last week it would be coming to Billings, opening its sixth store in early January. Rather than franchise the brand, owner Tom Snyder has kept it under one roof as a corporate entity. Looking ahead, the company will evaluate other locations across the state. Synder said they're currently looking at locations in Great Falls for this coming spring. The priority, however, will be focusing on the locations it has and making sure they're running well. Lastly, a third company, the Bozeman-based Mirch Masala Indian Restaurant, moved to Billings this month, closing their popular eatery in Gallatin County to do so. "We decided Billings was the right place," said Delisha Patel, who's mother-in-law does all the cooking for the restaurant. [ Billings Gazette ] Montana Ag Network: Sugar beet harvest underway In Montana and northern Wyoming, the sugarbeet industry continues to be a very important driver for local economies. And the early sugarbeet harvest is underway for both Western Sugar Cooperative ( hiring ) and Sidney Sugars ( hiring ). “Economics of the sugarbeet business have been very good for all my life,” said Ervin Schlemmer, a sugarbeet farmer from Joliet, Montana. “In Montana alone it’s a $50 million business that’s put into our local economies, our small towns and our downtown businesses,” said Schlemmer. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the co-op or the grocery store, the sugarbeet business is what helps feed this valley.” According to the Montana Ag Statistics Service , sugarbeet acreage in Montana is 42,700 (the same as it was in 2017) compared to Wyoming’s 30,900 acres (down 700 acres from 2017). [ KRTV ] MSU sets fall enrollment record, sees increases in retention and graduation rates Montana State University has set a new enrollment record, with 16,902 students on campus this fall, the highest enrollment in the university’s history and marking 11 straight years of enrollment growth for the Bozeman campus. The university also saw an increase in the number of students returning to MSU for a second year at 77.2 percent, the highest in the university’s history. Other notable progress toward a strategic goal came in MSU’s graduation rates, which increased to record numbers, jumping more than 2 points to 29.3 percent this fall. Along with increased graduation rates, MSU’s average student debt for 2017-18 declined by more than $1,200 compared to the prior academic year. And, it was also noted that incoming students are bringing with them some of the best academic scores in university history. All in all, positive news all around for the university. [ Montana State University ]
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