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Semiconductor chip manufacturer to add 200 jobs in Montana with third plant, ‘Yellowstone’ production company considering Butte for new series, Company gets OK for $253 million wind farm and energy storage in central Montana...and more

Semiconductor chip manufacturer to add 200 jobs in Montana with third plant, ‘Yellowstone’ production company considering Butte for new series, Company gets OK for $253 million wind farm and energy storage in central Montana...and more
Image by: Lauren Kemp

Montana hospital uses virtual reality technology to help patients recover

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana in Billings is turning to virtual reality to assist patients in recovery. Patient Doug Harris, who had a stroke on April 20, leaving him unable to use the left side of his body, shared that his inability to walk is frustrating, but he is improving. He has been at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana for two weeks and is excited that he is now able to do things that were impossible before. The hospital is the first in Montana to use virtual reality to help patients recover from strokes. RHOM occupational therapist Max Holded shared, “We can actually incorporate different challenges that incorporate those systems to help people regain their function and their independence.” The goal is to get patients on their feet, out of the virtual world and into the real world quickly. [KPAX]

Perseverance grew Glacier Hops Ranch into award-winning exporter

What started as an experiment planting 46 varieties of hops on a 30 acre field nearly 10 years ago, has turned into a thriving agricultural wholesale business out of Whitefish, Montana that has exported products to over 50 countries. Recently, as part of Small Business Week, Glacier Hops Ranch was recognized as the state, regional, and national Exporter of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration. Winning the award alone was a shock for CEO, Tom Britz, but when he heard Glacier Hops Ranch won on three different levels, he was blown away. International exporting has become a major part of Britz’s business, and after pushing through many hurdles, he has created something unimaginable. [NewsBreak]

‘Yellowstone’ production company considering Butte for new series

The production company for the highly successful television franchise “Yellowstone” is considering filming part of its 1932 series in uptown Butte. “Butte was one of the happening places west of the Mississippi in 1932, so they’d really like to have the authenticity of the architecture here and be able to film here in Butte,” said Butte Civic Center Manager Bill Melvin. If the production company chooses Butte, there could be 400 people working in town from the summer until late fall, which city officials say would be great for the local economy. [KPAX]

Company gets OK for $253 million wind farm, energy storage in central Montana

Construction is set to begin this summer on a new-to-Montana concept that developers say addressees inconsistency of wind power. A remote field between Rapelje and Reed Point marks a first in Montana: a place where the power of wind will be stored. Stillwater County approved two phases of a wind farm that will incorporate large batteries for storing energy and will address what skeptics fault about wind power: inconsistencies and unreliability. The batteries offer a way to offset the vagaries of wind by storing excess energy when demand is low and tapping into the stores when demand peaks. Although this storage is new to Montana, it is not new to the industry. An estimated 175 workers will be employed during the year-long project, and 16-20 will remain permanent employees. The 48 wind turbines from each project phase will continue to generate 4.5% of the total renewable energy currently produced in Montana. [Explore Big Sky]

Kalispell’s newest student-built home hits the market

Kalispell’s Student Built Homes completed their seventh build after 30 students invested around 7,500 hours during this year’s program. The new home hit the market at a competitive market price of $699,900. In the last few years, median home prices have greatly increased however, an upside to this growing cos is the reinvestment of profit into the program for next year’s class of students. In the last eight years, Flathead High teacher, Brock Anderson has introduced over 200 students into the skilled labor workforce. Upon completing the course, students earn 360 hours of apprenticeship that gets recorded with the Montana Department of Labor. [NBC Montana

Montana Remembered: art of Copper Village Museum co-founder on display

Montana Remembered is a collection of paintings and collages created by the counter of the Copper Village Museum of Art Center. On display, the gallery has collages and paintings that tell the story of Anaconda Montana through the eyes of Joeann Daley, co-founder of the museum and art center. The exhibit displays Daley experiencing Anaconda’s growth as a mining city, her travels outside the country, and Anaconda’s fall, and ends with the hope of the Copper Village Museum and Art Center. [KPAX]

Regenerative Agriculture program takes classroom outside school walls

The Regenerative Agriculture program at Whitefish High School is more than an educational class alone. It is creating positive change in students by encouraging entrepreneurship and helping them discover their own worth. Three years ago, high school teacher Mark Casazza got the approval to make his passion become his career. He spent 27 years as a math teacher while running a program on the side that hired students to wok both in construction and on his family’s 700 acre ranch. He has combined that side project into a popular class offered to junior and senior high school students. “What I did on the weekends over the summer because I loved it, I now do here - my passion became my job,” shared Casazza. The class includes a brainstorming session where students identify the projects, they would like to pursue, and focus on one per group for the rest of the year. The project is run like a business, where in the past students have created businesses that sell microgreens, market grass-finished beef, and one that involved building a vegetable trailer to use for produce sales in the summer. [Whitefish Pilot]

Montana State students who built concrete canoe win regional competition 

Now displayed in Norm Asbjornson Hall, the 18-foot-long craft is a monument to a standout competition season that saw the MSU team paddle to first place at a regional tournament. The project took countless hours of design and building, as it was made from scratch. Team captain Jenna Brogren, a junior majoring in civil engineering, shared, “The challenge is making the concrete less dense than the water and shaping it in a way that the canoe won’t break.” Students took on the challenge from the national ASCE organization last October. They were evaluated on their technical knowledge, the aesthetics of their design, and whether or not they achieved a canoe that would not sink or break. The win was significant as MSU has not competed in the event since 2004, as their focus was on other ASCE competitions. It could not have come at a better time as MSU is set to co-host the 2023 Pacific Northwest ASCE Student Symposium on campus next April.  [KPAX]

Montana National Guard member receives surprise honor

U.S. Senator Steve Daines presented Maj. Daniela Ragen with a copy of the Congressional Record from last November, when he officially recognized her as “Montanan of the Month.” Daines highlighted Ragen’s hard work to become a soldier, including becoming a language barrier and working as a coordinator for the Guard’s counterdrug program. Ragen said her husband had told her the ceremony would be in honor of one of her friends, and she was ‘blindsided’ when she discovered it was actually for her. She said, “I am used to recognizing and giving and honoring people, and this is pretty special. I don’t think there’ll be anything that equals to this moment.” Ragen and her husband, who is also a guard member, have five children, and she is now a full-time mom, but she continues her work with the National Guard on weekends as an equal opportunity program director.  [KPAX]

‘Mayfaire’ breaks fundraising record

People stepped up in a record-breaking way to help Benefits Health System assist cancer patients. Benefits announced that the annual Mayfaire fundraiser for the Benefits Foundation raised more than $1 million for the first time. The fundraiser, which consists of a golf tournament and a gala, helped the foundation get over a third of its $3 million fundraising goal for updates to the Sletten Cancer Institute. The money will be used for a teaching kitchen that will help patients who need education on feeding themselves nutritiously while going through cancer care, expanding the genetic program, and expanding the infusion and pharmacy areas. [KRTV]

GFDA ‘Boots to Business’ instructor earns national award

Jason Nitschke, who serves as the Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center at the Great Falls Development Authority, was named 2021 Boots to Business (B2B) National Instructor of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The award is presented by the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, which select one winner from within the agency, along with its five SBA Resource Partner programs nationwide. Nitschke will represent the SBDC programs throughout the United States. “It’s certainly an honor to be recognized at a local level or state level. “Certainly, at a national level, being one of six people across the world…I don’t come to work every day in pursuit of recognition; I come to work every day to impact the quality of lives for entrepreneurs and their employees and to make the Great Falls regional economy a better place for people be, including my daughter.” As the SBDC Regional Director, Nitschke provides one-on-one counseling and training for entrepreneurs and small businesses in his seven-county region. [KRTV]

Semiconductor chip manufacturer to add 200 jobs in Montana with third plant

An advanced semiconductor manufacturing company is establishing its third plant in Northwestern Montana in an effort to meet the growing demand for electronics. Applied Materials recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility in Evergreen Montana. The new facility will be located in a vacant department store outside Kalispell, Montana and expects to begin semiconductor plating operations in June. The project is expected to create 200 new jobs including manufacturing personnel, engineers, and managers. Officials shared that the manufacturing jobs will range from $17 per hour to $30 per hour depending on experience. Dennis McHaffie, the company’s VP of operations shared, “The demand has never been greater. We can’t ship them fast enough. We’re having all of the right problems.” The Silicon Valley based company says its materials engineering solutions are used to make “virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world.” [Thomasnet.com]